Tag Archives: A Journey of Seasons

Wild Edible and Medicinal Spring Flowers

Redbud blossoms Jill HendersonJill Henderson – Show Me Oz

With the end of the Great Sleep, spring has asserted herself firmly in the Heart of the Ozarks.  The rising intensity of the sun entices all living things to join in the brief but joyous celebration of new beginnings. Big or small, spring provides the perfect opportunity to search for new and interesting native plants. Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Fall Leaves: Good for the Garden

2013 11-22 Fall MosaicBy Jill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz ~

The clear, cool days of fall are perfect for wrapping up last-minute garden chores, such as winterizing perennial herbs, flowers and shrubs.  It’s also a good time to cultivate existing garden beds or create new beds for spring planting.  But there’s one chore in the fall that not everyone looks forward to – raking leaves.  Sometimes there are so many leaves that homeowners spend weeks trying to get rid of the deepening piles.  But instead of raking and burning, or bagging leaves for the garbage, consider putting your fall leaves to use in the garden as a protective, nutrient-rich mulch.

How to Clean and Crack Black Walnuts

Black walnuts on the tree. Image copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.comJill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz ~

The Ozarks are blessed with an abundance of wild food, including the oh-so-delectable black walnut.  Each fall, the huge green fruits come crashing down into parks, yards, and a multitude of public spaces, making them easy game for any wild or urban forager.  Indeed, why pay $5 for a 4 ounce bag of nutmeats when you’ve got black walnut trees around?  That’s just nuts!  The problem most people face isn’t acquiring enough nuts to make it worth their while, it’s the cleaning, cracking and picking that really gets them.  So, if you’ve never done it before because you’ve heard how hard they are to deal with, I hope this post will make the cleaning, cracking and picking of black walnuts just a little bit easier.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Ozark History: The First Inhabitants

osageShow Me Oz – Excerpted from the Introduction to my book, A Journey of Seasons: A Year in the Ozarks High Country

The Ozark “Mountains” are an anomaly – an island in a sea of plains, a bump in an otherwise flat road. When viewed from the air the folds and contours of the Ozarks resemble a human brain; an interesting comparison, since the Ozarks also represent one of the most ancient and diverse landscapes in North America.  Among the unique and dizzying array of flora and fauna, caves, sinkholes, crystal clear springs and toe-numbing rivers is a rich and tangled history of human habitation.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Moonshine in Missouri

IMG_4301By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Quite a few years back, on a beautiful fall day just like this one, a bit of unpleasant news filtered down through our village grapevine. Apparently, an elderly and well-known gentleman in our little community had been arrested for bootlegging moonshine.  That the man in question made and sold corn whiskey was no secret to many in the surrounding area, for he had been doing it for the better part of his life and made little secret of it. Some of the first official reports claimed that this gentleman and his immediate family made and sold up to 9,000 gallons of moonshine each year.  And while that may sound like a lot of ‘shine, it didn’t come as a surprise to me or to anyone else living within a 100 mile radius, because this fella had a reputation for making absolutely top-notch hooch and everyone who drank alcohol wanted a jar of their very own.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Buck: A Short Story (part two)

2001 - 11 - Peace Valley - Buck scenting the windThe continuation of a short story about our beloved lab, Buck, whose life was much too short.  Continued from Part One: 

He had around his neck a dirty old blue bandana that had been folded up like a collar and tied on when he was but a pup. That bandana was like an announcement that clearly said he belonged to someone. Probably one of the local Salish families here on the Rez. But whoever it was hadn’t noticed, or cared, that the puppy they’d strapped that thing to was not a puppy any more and now the damn thing was nearly choking him to death. It’s a wonder he could even swallow; that thing was so tight around there. Kinda irked me to see it, but he wasn’t yet sure of me and I thought twice about pissing off the wrong person. Continue reading

Buck: A Short Story (part one)

1993-1 - Gafield, AR - Buck see's snow for the first time! editBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

I wrote this short story many years ago.  Our beloved 12 year-old lab, Buck, lay dying on a pallet in the middle of our living room as Dean and I and Buck’s best buddy, Milo, comforted him until his time came.  It was sudden and wrenchingly painful and left us with a hole that could never be filled.   But even as we mourned, we laughed.  For Buck’s life, and ours with him – and with Milo – were joyous and filled with adventure, laughter and lots and lots of love.  This is a short story about a dog whose life was too short.  From my heart; in Buck’s voice.  This hasn’t been edited thoroughly on purpose.  Buck would want it that way.  I hope you enjoy. Continue reading

Wild Walk: Monarda

Monardaby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

There is nothing quite as enchanting as a chance encounter with a wild patch of flowering monarda. The electric colors of their shaggy, upright flowers light up the shady places they prefer; dazzling the unprepared eye. Once familiar with the sweet oregano-like scent of this delicately delectable herb one can often smell a colony of monarda long before seeing it. And if the scent doesn’t give it away, the sound of buzzing bees will.

Continue reading

Lawnmowers and Strangers

lawnmower smBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

After a long summer of bashing against rocks, half buried stumps, and knee-deep grass the Ozarks finally killed our lawnmower.   We worked that machine pretty hard and despite regular maintenance, managed to break just about every part there was to break.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Rock Pickin’ Snow!

Rocks and snow.By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Even though we just had a string of lovely, sunny days, overall, it’s been a pretty gloomy winter here in Oz.  Early cold and snow, persistently cloudy skies, and a generous dose of downright gloomy days are enough to chase just about everyone indoors.  The temporary respite we just had will be followed by a weekend of snow and rain and who knows what else.  Despite all that, there are good reasons to get outside; and get movin’. My reason of late has been good ol’-fashioned rock pickin’ – a hillbilly pastime if there ever was one.

Continue reading

One Woman’s Journey Through Oz

2002 - 5 - Caney Mountain Herb walk - vistasby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

I am not an Ozarker by birth.  I was actually born in  the West, grew up in the Deep South, and spent 10 years or so roving about the Rocky Mountains of Western Montana and other points beyond.  I love them all.  But when the day came that I first laid my eyes upon the rocky and rolling hills and hollers of the Ozarks, something deep in my bones told me I was home.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Wild Walk: Goldenrod

goldenrodby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Although the meadow below my house is still lush and green, I can see fall working its way into our lives.  I see it in the falling golden leaves of the black walnut trees and in the burning-red leaves of sassafras and sumac. And even though the meadow is most definitely green, it is also suddenly dotted with the purple and gold blossoms of asters and early goldenrod – plants we sometimes love to hate.

Continue reading

The “Right to Farm” in the Ozarks

Animals on our small family farm.By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

No matter how one chooses to look at it, farming can have an impact on the quality of our water.  Like a network of blood vessels, capillaries, and arteries found in the human body, the Ozarks are riddled with craggy veins that carry surface water deep down into the earth through the highly-fractured slabs of limestone beneath our feet – and sometimes, back out again.  Everything that touches the ground on the surface – including soil, rocks, debris, chemicals, manure, fertilizers and even acid rain – will eventually find its way into our creeks, rivers and springs, and ultimately our aquifers and our water wells.

Continue reading

Wild Blackberries and Wine–Part II

Blackberry Pickin - Image Copyright Jill Hendersonby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Wild blackberries are among the most productive and versatile fruiting plants in the wild.  The most difficult thing about gathering blackberries is deciding what to do with all those dark luscious fruits once you get them home.  Luckily, blackberries lend themselves to all kinds of luscious concoctions, not all of which have to be jams and pies.  In fact,  once the main harvest is neatly tucked into the freezer, the last pick is always reserved for makin’ Wild Blackberry Wine! Continue reading

Wild Blackberries and Wine – Part I

clip_image002by Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

It’s been a wonderfully long and cool spring, but the temps have been climbing steadily into the more June-like 90’s.  With the heat has come the ripening of the wild black raspberries followed quickly by wild blackberries and giant boysenberries.  My husband Dean has already been out gathering the earliest of the sweet-tart fruits.  Historically, I have left the berry pickin’ to Dean.  But this year, I have set myself to pick with him every single time and I know it’ll be an adventure. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Granny Women and Biopiracy

Copyright Jill HendersonJill Henderson ~ Show Me Oz

Granny Women were once herbal doctors whose knowledge almost became extinct thanks to big pharma. Today, it is again threatened by restrictive patents from big ag and big pharma genetic bio-pirates looking for the next billion-dollar drug or plant gene that they can patent for billions of dollars in profits – taking away the public’s right to gather, use, and save seed from all native and naturalized plant life on earth. Read on to learn more about the roles that Granny Women (and Men) have played throughout the history of mankind and why the knowledge they passed down to us is once again being threatened with extinction.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Old Tractors and Sustainable Agriculture

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

The lush forests, rolling pastures, and long vistas of the Ozarks are truly easy on the eyes, but their pastoral appearance also belies how tough these hills can be to survive in.  Although farming has been a traditional way of life in the Ozarks3 for generations, producing one’s food on this rocky bit of earth has never been easy.  Even with the modern comforts of today’s machinery, farming in the Ozarks can sometimes be best described as “hard-scrabble”.  And in the 15 years I’ve been here, I’ve seen more than one eager newcomer throw in the towel after only a few short years of backbreaking work that was resulted in little gain.

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.

Continue reading

The Pies Have It!

crustBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –

As we embark on the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about all the good food to come.  So this week, I thought I would share a few of my all-time favorite pie and pie pastry recipes with you!  Enjoy!

Continue reading

Wild Food Foray: Wild Grapes

2013 11-4 Wild Grape (5)_thumbBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Fall is a great time to gather the wild foods that grow abundantly here in the Ozarks.  Black walnuts, hickory nuts, persimmons, mushrooms, rosehips and wild grapes are all native to the Ozarks and many of the Southern and Midwest states.  Our latest foray resulted in a basket full of luscious wild grapes.

Continue reading

Wild Food: Bearded Tooth Mushrooms

Bearded Tooth mushroom Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpressBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

It’s been a busy year here on Turtle Ridge.  And just when we thought all our sowing and harvesting were done, fall arrived with its bounty of wild food just begging to be gathered.  So like all creatures preparing for the Great Sleep, Dean and I have been busy squirreling away delicious and nutritious fruits, nuts, and mushrooms for our winter cache. Continue reading

Wild Walk: Cooking with Persimmons

American Persimmon ShowMeOz.wordpress.comBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Now that I’ve got you thinking about persimmons – those gooey globes of goodness – let’s talk more about what to do with them once you manage to pick them, clean them and process the pulp (Missed that part?  Then check out, Wild Walk: Persimmons). Today, we’ll take on that sticky-sweet pulp in the kitchen and find something awesome to do with it!

Continue reading

Wild Walk: Persimmons

Two natural varietals of wild persimmon. Copyright Jill Henderson https://showmeoz.wordpress.comby Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Fall is a great time for getting outside and wandering around in the woods.  The heat of summer is over and most of the creepy crawlies are busy doing whatever they do when the weather turns chilly, which makes fall the perfect hunting season for a rich array of wild edible and medicinal plants including mushrooms, walnuts, and the incredible, edible wild persimmon!

Continue reading

Stalking the Wild Mushroom

2012 10-23 Ringed Honeys (4)By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

It’s been a long summer here on Turtle Ridge, but we are more than thankful for the bounty of the garden and of the wild plants and trees in our forest and meadows.  And with the recent rain and cool fall temperatures signaling the arrival of fall, wild foragers like myself can’t wait to hit the woods in search of delectable wild fungi.  After posting a few pictures of my own ‘ground scores’  last year, many readers wanted to know more about how to identify and use the fabulous fungi in the Ozarks.  This is for all you budding mycologists out there!

Continue reading

Black Walnuts: A Local Remedy

blackwalnutsBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

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

In the Ozarks we are blessed with an abundance of trees, among them the stately and ever-useful Black Walnut (Juglans nigra).  These trees are not only beautiful to look at and make wonderful shade trees when they are allowed to grow to their full size, but they also provide valuable timber and edible nuts. 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. 

Continue reading

Luscious Elderberries

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Summer is a time of abundance in the natural world.  It doesn’t take much searching to find plants, trees and shrubs that are either flowering, setting fruit or going to seed.  And all it takes to fill one’s winter larder with this abundance is a little walking and a keen eye.   July is a particularly bountiful month in which one of my favorite wild edibles, the common elderberry, begins to set and ripen its delicious, nutritious and medicinal fruits.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Weather Prognostication the Old Fashioned Way

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Weather is the barometer by which humankind revolves and Ozarkers talk about the weather the way stock brokers talk about share prices.  In nearly every conversation, the weather is often the opening topic and over the years, I have come to believe that the official greeting of the Ozarks is, “How’s the weather over ’t your place?”  Like people everywhere, Ozarkers love to grumble about “bad” weather, but usually they do it with humility and humor. Continue reading

Keep It Funny!

grasshopper and ants 1By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –

There are so many laments about the bugs in the Ozarks that if they were compiled into a book it would never end. How do you even begin to tell outsiders about the insects that inhabit our Oz? 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 – they’re not going to believe you anyway. If I told a person unfamiliar with these parts that the insects in the Ozarks would carry off their children if they didn’t keep them tied down, do you think they’d believe me? I suspect not, but every Ozarker who reads this knows it’s the truth.

Continue reading

Gardening With Wildlife: Beefing Up Your Habitat

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

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

One of the coolest things about being a country gardener is that I am constantly surrounded by wild things.  These creatures are part and parcel of a healthy ecosystem and one of the rarest and most precious gifts that one can have.  However, it goes without saying that on occasion we are forced to butt heads with the very wildlife that we cherish.  Whether it’s the birds eating the blueberries, squirrels in the peach tree or a rabbit in the cabbage patch, we sometimes have to go to war to protect our share of the harvest.  And after years of living and gardening in the backwoods I have learned that all creatures are compelled to survive, and that the best deterrent for pesky garden critters is to create a place for them to do just that.

Continue reading

Gardening With Wildlife: Natural Deterrents

2012 Copyright Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson – – Show Me Oz

We humans are not alone in our affection for the garden.  Whether we like it or not, there are many creatures that enjoy our bounty as well as we do and keeping the critters at bay is about as much work for the gardener as the growing of the garden itself.   With so much time and effort put into growing a garden, it is incredibly hard not to fly into a tizzy when evidence of foul play is found. Over the years we have had our share of wild things enjoying our garden produce and understand the feelings of loss and frustration that come from seeing something you have worked so hard for, trampled to the ground, half eaten or just plain disappeared.   In that moment of horror it is hard to be understanding, much less compassionate.  Yet, through our many years of growing organically, we have found many ways to make room for everyone.

Continue reading

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

The Hillbilly Stereotype and the Modern Ozarker

2008 Old Farm Machinery - Jill HendersonFor many years I have written about the Ozarks.  Most of the time I write about the natural landscape and the plants and creatures that inhabit it.  But that’s not where my love for this place ends.  For what is a place without its people, its culture and how it sees itself compared to the rest of the world and how the rest of the world sees them?  Ask anyone who doesn’t live here about the Ozarks and most will eventually use the word hillbilly in some shape or form. Continue reading

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

A Beeline for Spring

By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz
– – –
Today is the Vernal Equinox, the celestial event that marks the point in time when day and night become equal in length and spring officially begins.  Of course, here in the Ozarks, spring has been well under way for several weeks now.  Even before the first daffodil bloomed, the signs were all around us, especially winged kind.  I always know spring has arrived when  the moths begin beating against the windows at night and when sleep-drunk wasp queens drift on the breeze and buzzing bees begin searching for the first flowers of the season.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

A Walk on the Wild Side: Pokeweed

"Pokeweed" Copyright 2008 Jill HendersonBy Jill Henderson

April does something me that no other month can, probably because I was born under her stars.  The lengthening days and warm, stormy weather bring a rush of growth in my garden and throughout the woods and fields.  And for those Ozarkers who like to eat on the wild side, the warmer weather is more than accommodating, as the wild greens of black mustard, dock, lambs quarters and poke are already up and at their peak of flavor.   Pokeweed, better known as poke, is one of our favorite spring greens and when cooked properly, nothing beats it for a scrumptious pot herb. Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Persimmon Pickin’ Time – Part II

American PersimmonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

In Persimmon Pickin’ Time Part One, we talked about how to harvest persimmons and how to separate the pulp from the bitter seeds and skin and how to freeze the pulp of this delectable wild fruit.  Today, we’ll take on that sticky-sweet pulp in the kitchen and I’ll even throw in a couple of my favorite persimmon recipes to get you started Continue reading

Persimmon Pickin’ Time – Part I

American PersimmonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

Fall is probably one of the most beloved times of year here in the Ozarks. The scorching heat of summer and irresistibly itchy bug bites are long forgotten and the days are sparkling and fresh. Oftentimes, the unexpected warmth of the fall sun weaves itself in between the bristly cool mornings and frosty nights and we are teased out into the deeper reaches of the landscape for a little adventure.  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