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For 25 years the Ozarks have been my home. Many of my books are about or set in the Ozarks. They reflect my interests in nature, goats and science. A writer has a long memory of people and places to draw from when developing a book. My memory tells me of my southern California roots, my University days, teaching high school science and the many goat owners I have met over the years. For now reflections about my years in the Ozarks forms the basis for two new books. My goats are a source of inspiration for another.

Botany Season Begins

Officially the season is winter. Officially the pastures are paved with dry, yellow grass and the hills with bare limbs. Botany season has begun anyway.

No wildflowers are blooming yet. Even tiny corn speedwell is waiting this year. There has been warmer weather, but no moisture.

botany season begins with river birch

One of the special sights over the winter is the tree bare of leaves so the trunk and branches show. This river birch has so many fine twigs giving it a brushy look.

Storms are forecast and touted as bringing rain, sleet, snow and mixtures. They track north of the Ozarks. We stay in the severe drought belt.

This week we have hopes. This week the rain, even a scattering of snow has moved through here. There is mud in low places.

Green leaves line the road. Dead nettle and chickweed are shaking off their winter survival settings. Pasture grasses are stirring and sending up a few new green shoots.

botany season willow tree

This willow is a small tree. It’s twigs and buds are yellow and hairless. Which willow is it? There are eight to choose from. I will wait to see flowers and leaves.

This doesn’t sound like good botany season timing. Nothing is blooming. Things are barely growing.

I walked out to look at the willows and plants nearby. River birch catkins are swelling as are black alder catkins. If the weather stays warm enough, the catkins will bloom within two weeks.

The willows are a mixed bag. They are shrubs to small trees that like water such as the nearby cold water spring fen. Each year I go out to try to identify the different ones growing there. Each year they defeat me. I know there are four or five of the eight species found in Dent County growing there.

willow buds

Willow buds are long and narrow, alternate. This willow has hairy twigs and buds in off white. Other buds are red or yellow or brown. Most have no hairs.

This year I am going to identify these willows.

A willow has male plants producing catkins and female plants producing seeds. The plants usually appear similar except for the flowers.

Some willows bloom before leafing out. Other willows bloom as they leaf out. A few bloom after leafing out. All the leaves are similar, long and narrow with a single strong vein down the center.

botany season willow shrubs

These willows are only shrubs. They grow thickly in one area making it look red with their twigs and buds. Which willow are these shrubs? Eight possibilities. I will wait.

The key to identifying these willows is visiting them several times over the spring. I need to see the flowers and the seeds. I need to see the leaves, bark and twigs. Most importantly I need to keep my records of which willow is which straight.

I now have bark, twig and bud pictures of each different willow, I think. Each has its little folder. The first one should bloom about the time the river birch blooms.

My botany season has begun.

Scrounging Winter Pasture

For months the goats were out gorging on grass and browse. Winter pasture has little to offer.

Last year’s wind storm blew down big trees. The goats sampled the leaves. There were too many leaves for the goats to eat all of them. Those remaining are now brown and dry.

Normally the grass is deep in the fall from late rains. The rains did not come. The grass is skimpy.

fallen trees are winter pasture

Trina and Flame are munching on the last of these leaves on a fallen oak. The leaves are a sad reminder of better times for browsing.

Goats used to walking miles every day don’t like being cooped up. They soon pick on each other. Since several are heavy with kids, this is not good.

Winter pasture helps. There may not be much to eat. The goats must go distances to scrounge what there is.

Don’t think the goats wear themselves out. Goats don’t walk as though on a treadmill. They wander to one area, nibble, lie down and relax. Then they get up and repeat the routine in another place.

Nubian doe in winter pasture

Nubian doe Sasha, the oldest doe, relaxes in the remains of the winter pasture.

Over the warm months the goats eat breakfast then line up at the pasture gate. Now the herd lines up in the barn waiting for hay. Only after the hay is eaten, trampled and otherwise disposed of, do the goats entertain the notion of going out to winter pasture.

Nubian kids on winter pasture

The three remaining Nubian doe kids are getting big. They play tagalong after the does on the swings through the winter pasture and the woods.

My routine changes accordingly. I milk, put out hay and go to the house. A couple of hours later I go back to the barn. If the weather is good, I let the goats out. If the weather is bad, more hay goes into the troughs.

The bucks root for good weather. The does and bucks share the barn lot. When the does are in, the bucks are in their pens. When the does go out, the bucks get out into the lot.

Nubian herd on winter pasture

Hope keeps the Nubians herd scrounging through the winter pasture and the woods. Maybe something new has appeared.

The rains seem to be returning. At least, several storms have dropped an inch of water each lately. The temperatures are warm for February. The grass has noticed and is putting up a few pioneer blades.

Perhaps winter pasture will give way to spring pasture in a couple of weeks. The goats would be delighted.

Search For Silence Brings Quiet

Noise seems to be everywhere. At times it is overwhelming, leading to a desire for silence, an absence of all the noise.

I have never heard silence, that total absence of sound. Doing so seems an impossibility for any person able to hear. Perhaps someone who is deaf can hear total silence, I do not know.

Silence is one of those things people say they want to hear. In this technological world companies make ear covers to keep out all outside noise. I’ve never tried a pair of these, but have no doubt they work.

nature brings quiet

Several years ago I found this place to sit. The redbud tree has grown. The hillside is above me. The creek is below me. It is a quiet, restful place to sit where time seems to suspend itself.

Even with these silence is not truly possible. There is an old story that, if you hold a large sea shell to your ear, you will hear the ocean. You don’t. You hear the sound of your blood coursing through your ears. These ear covers can’t keep out this sound.

Discounting this, there is still the sound of your breathing. The brain seems wired for sound and can generate clicks and roars, that ringing in the ears to keep silence at bay.

Ozarks can bring quiet vistas

Once spring arrives in the Ozarks, the hills become a place of daily change as wildflowers grow and bloom, trees leaf out, their greens shifting through the summer until they color for fall.

Instead of attempting to find silence, seek quiet. The problem isn’t noise, but the overabundance of noise. Consider the ordinary house.

I’ve walked into houses and heard the television playing to an empty room, the radio blaring elsewhere, computers or other devices spewing music. No one is listening to any of these. They are background noise to keep silence at bay.

trees and clouds bring quiet

Overhead the leaves move in the breeze casting changing shadow patterns on the ground. Above the trees the clouds can make fantastic shapes. Both can let the mind feel quiet.

Even if these devices are turned off, other motors hum. Refrigerators, freezers, water pumps, air conditioners, heaters, all the devices we depend on for our lifestyles rumble along in the background.

In the rural Ozarks a big storm can drop the electric lines. All the motors cease. Intense quiet seeps through the house.

Nerves relax. Muscles relax. Ears strain. Then comes the sigh of relief. A clock is ticking. It’s quiet, not silence, quiet.

creek sounds bring quiet

The sound of water gurgling down an Ozark creek is restful. Watching the creek can let me spot a snapping turtle or a mink. The simple sounds of wind and water make the mind feel quiet.

For people used to noise, this quiet can become disturbing. There is supposed to be noise, the brain says.

Me? I relished the quiet. I reveled in this quiet. My nerves seemed to relax. My mind let the quiet seep in bringing calmness with it. The resuming hum of the refrigerator, when the electricity came back on, was an intrusion and resented as well as appreciated.

Most of the time quiet must be sought out away from houses or barns or roads. It’s there, out in the woods where the sounds are bird calls and wind. Even better is a snowy field. Snow seems to hush all sounds but the whisper of wind.

I will never find true silence. It’s not what I want. Quiet is preferable. Quiet to hear the world live, the mind think, letting stress seep away.

Savor some of the sights and sounds of the Ozarks in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Designing Carduan Ravines

Ravines abound in the Ozark hills around me. Small ones are merely folds coming down hills. Narrow ones are where two hills are close together. Large ones can broaden into wide shelves of land adjoining a deep graveled creek bed.

For the Carduans, their ravine will be their world for a long time. The distance they can go exploring will be limited.

At a bit over five feet tall, a mile is 2,100 steps for me. That makes each step about two and a half feet long or half my height.

Since my Carduans average four inches tall, their steps would be two inches long. A mile is 63,360 inches long or 31,680 Carduan steps long, about a 15 mile equivalent.

Admittedly Ozark ravines aren’t that long. The longest one nearby is a mere half mile. This would still be a seven mile Carduan hike.

Carduan combined ravines

Creating a world for a novel is always a challenge whether the world is our own or on an alien planet. No Ozark ravine is the same as any other Ozark ravine. That made designing one for The Carduan Chronicles easy and hard. This is the rough draft. Next it needs a distance scale and detailed drawings. I wish I could just take a picture.

The immediate Carduan ravine therefore will need to have everything they will need within a short distance. What will they need?

First is their landing ledge. This almost level rock ledge juts out of a hillside and overhangs the ravine.

Second is a water source. Springs and seeps are a common Ozark feature. adding one to the Carduan ravine is reasonable.

Third is level ground suitable for agriculture. The Carduans are an agricultural people raising livestock and crops for food and fiber.

Fourth is a safe place to build homes. Ozark ravines are prone to flooding so this must be high enough to stay out of the flood waters. It must be defensible from coyotes, bobcats, owls, snakes and other predators who would consider the Carduans tasty snacks.

I went exploring nearby ravines. One yielded the perfect ledge rocks. First criterion met.

Another had two ravines joining, one with a spring and the other larger one with the possibility of level land. Another had a wonderful series of rock ledges for the spring water to descend in a series of small waterfalls. The second criterion met.

The level land came from another section of ravine. This has several ravines feeding into a main one creating deltas. These are high enough to avoid small high water events, but will flood once or twice a year. The Nile River would do this and provide wonderful soil for the Egyptians. Third criterion met.

The fourth criterion solution was found on the sides of a ravine. It will be noted as solved here as it is a part of the story.

So now I get to draw out the map.

The first of The Carduan Chronicles is schedules for release in October, 2018.

Ozark Seasons Reflections

After living up near Lake Superior where winter arrived in October and stayed until April, the Ozark seasons had great appeal. All four seasons showed during the year, but none were extreme. Waist deep snow for six months would not be missed.

In the North, the cold is dry. The air is sharp, bracing. Snow comes in many varieties. Each layer settles and is covered by the next. Sometimes ice even appears in clear air sparkling like diamonds drifting around.

Ozark seasons winter

For those who have lived in snow country, the big impression from this picture is cold. Setting the shivers aside, snow makes a tree look so dramatic.

Ozark cold is a damp cold. It slices through jackets dousing you in ice water. Snow and ice storms blow in, drop layers and blow elsewhere. Rarely does the ice or snow stay for more than a few days as warmer air arrives to turn them into mud. Temperatures creep up only to drop again with the next storm.

Spring in the North arrives around the middle of April with the break up of river ice. It slowly spreads green across the landscape. Sudden, severe frosts can arrive even in June.

Ozark seasons spring

Early spring leaves have a blue tinge in their green. The ephemeral plants shoot up quickly from stores of food in their roots. Other plants are slower to appear making the green carpet sketchy.

Spring, my favorite of the Ozark seasons, doesn’t arrive in the Ozarks. It argues with winter for weeks. A single day can be wintry in the morning and spring in the afternoon or vice versa. These arguments can erupt into thunderstorms.

Ozarks spring can be a few weeks long. The wildflowers appear. The trees leaf out. Or spring can seem only a few days long to be replaced with hot, summery days making the spring wildflowers trip over each other in their hurry to bloom and set seed.

Northern summers don’t get very hot. Highs in the eighties are a heat wave. July is the prime time. August brings fall and night frosts again.

Ozark seasons summer

Green is everywhere over an Ozarks summer. Over the summer the green changes shades and mellows until late summer green has a yellowish tinge to it.

Summer in the Ozarks stretches from sometime in May to August. So much happens over an Ozarks summer, there seems to be little time to stop and admire the hills. The plants and animals charge ahead at full speed.

Every plant is its own shade of green making the hills a collage of light to dark green mixed as though tossed for salad. Heat makes leaves droop. Humidity smothers plants and animals. Thunderstorms gather the humidity into towering clouds then drop it accompanied by pyrotechnics leaving the air so full of moisture animals almost need gills.

Ozark Seasons fall

Nothing announces fall in the Ozarks like the blazing crimson of the sumacs. It seems to glow.

One day toward late August, it is fall. The day before was summer. Now the day has a cool fall feel, the night has a frost sharpness, although it doesn’t frost.

Sumacs blaze crimson. Virginia creeper and poison ivy hang red garlands from the trees and wrap their trunks with color. The year is winding down in a mad flurry of wildflowers and activity as birds migrate, raccoons and woodchucks fatten up for hibernation and storms change from puffy cumulus clouds to sheets of stratus clouds.

One cycle of the Ozark seasons is over and winter comes again.

This is an essay draft for the upcoming Ozarks book. Exploring the Ozark Hills explores the seasons through individual topics and is available now.

Designing the Carduan Space Ship

Winter weather has returned. Except for chores that must be done, staying inside is the main plan of action. I am back to work on The Carduan Chronicles including designing their space ship.

Space ships are the things of books for me. Teaching science I covered things like lift, payload and thrust as factors in flying. Paper airplanes and water rockets made great labs.

But space ships?

The Carduans arrive in a space ship. It’s a short flight, supply ship equipped to carry up to 60 passengers and cargo. It has no heavy weaponry or long range capabilities. All it has to do is accelerate to speed, drift into the worm tunnel, then land at the destination.

So I need a simple, bare bones space ship.

Where do I start? Dimensions. The Carduans are four inches tall. The ship must be six inches tall, minimum.

Carduan space ship for The Carduan Chronicles

This is the floor plan of the Carduan space ship. for The Carduan Chronicles. I prefer to work with pencil – it is erasable. I inked in the main lines so I could scan my design. Please forgive the roughness. There are lots of crates in the storage area. If they are standard size like the food crates, the piles are five high and six deep. What is in them? I don’t know. It’s like finding a pile of presents under a Christmas tree. As the story progresses, the crates will be opened and discoveries made.

The ship must have a thick, insulated hull as space is cold. There needs to be an area for wiring and other pipes inside that hull. There are the observation screens, the control computer areas, the passenger/cargo areas.

Two door locks provide ingress and egress. Engines and fuel tanks take room. There are solar batteries, bathroom, water reclaimer and storage, infirmary, air tank storage, trash area.

Unlike the NASA Gemini capsule, the Carduans want room to move around. The space ship keeps getting bigger and taller.

And the size has constraints. An Ozark ravine can be large. Even the rock ledges can be large. But trees are a problem.

Finally the Carduan space ship was stuffed into an oval 30 inches long and 18 inches wide. All the interior areas were fit in. And there was plenty of passenger/cargo room.

How tall should the ship be? At first I thought 18 inches. That was over four times the average height and seemed excessive. It shrank to 12 inches.

side view of Carduan space ship for The Carduan Chronicles

From the side, the Carduan space ship is rather plain. It has no windows. It should have several raised areas for the sensors. There would be one on the top, two on each side, one in front and one in the rear. I decided to go with rollers rather than wheels as they would provide better support across the ship. It is designed to carry cargo, possible heavy cargo. This is why there are three rollers. The rollers are four inches diameter extending two from the base of the ship to the ground.

That gives room for the engines at the rear. And additional cargo space over the engine compartment.

Since the ship is a short flight transport, main engine access can be from the outside. That lets me make the engine compartment only 6 inches high.

The ship must be able to land. Perhaps wheels such as are on airplanes would be better. Still, I wanted rollers, three of them. And I am designing the ship.

Is this the best space ship? Probably not. Is it a feasible ship? I don’t know. Does it work? It seems to. And that is what matters.

You may disagree or see some problem I missed. If so, please let me know.

Ozark Winter Hiking

It snowed. There’s only an inch of the white stuff. And it’s January, not February. Still, I need to see what my ravine setting is like in the snow. Winter hiking is the plan.

The problems with winter hiking are the cold and wet. Both are very discouraging to me. A warm stove and a good book are so inviting.

Enough of that. I have to go out exploring before the Arctic front moves in. Both cold and wet can be dealt with.

winter hiking trail

The tractor road weaves between the trees. All is covered with snow giving the trail a lonely, bare look. It has a stark beauty as I hike into the ravine.

Clothing layers are a first line of defense. Long johns. Flannel shirt and jeans. Vest. Hoodie. Snow suit.

I see people walking in the cold without hats on. A tremendous amount of body heat is lost through your head. Hats are a must for winter hiking.

Cold feet are sure defeat. When feet get cold, they start hurting. The cold spreads up the ankles to the legs. The toes are ice cubes.

Snow calls for pack boots. Plus wool socks.

Carduan rocks

The landing rock ledge for The Carduan Chronicles stands hard and cold under a layer of white fluff. Apt as the crew is presently watching their first snow storm.

Next are the gloves. My hands are small so gloves are difficult to find. Those sized for women’s hands aren’t made for rugged use. Men’s sizes are too large. A double layer of jersey gloves works, if the air isn’t too cold.

Gloves have another aspect for me. I take a camera with me and intend to take pictures. Gloves are clumsy. Jersey gloves are easy to take off and put back on.

Digital cameras are another problem for winter hiking. They do not like being cold. If the temperature drops into the teens, the camera moves inside the snow suit.

Finally I am suited up. It only took fifteen minutes. I am stiff. The pack boots are heavy and clumsy.

I open the door and set off. The going is slow. Through the gate, across the bridge and out to the pastures.

winter hiking trees

Winter trees are dark, bare skeletons of branches. A dressing of snow resting on the branches adds contrast and eases the starkness.

Snow blankets the ground. Snow highlights tree limbs. Most creatures are tucked away trying to keep warm so the world is quiet.

A pileated woodpecker hammers on a tree. A large hawk swooshes by overhead. A barred owl flees from under a rock ledge.

The air is crisp. Bits of snow drop to the ground. I walk through a winter landscape straight from a picture on a card.

Winter hiking takes lots of preparation. It’s worth it.

Winter Garden Planning

Winter garden planning in January? It’s too cold to start seeds or grow anything. March or April makes more sense for garden planning.

Not really. March and April are months for planting. Without winter garden planning, what will I plant?

winter garden planning with garlic

The first part of winter garden planning for me is putting those garlic cloves into the dirt in October and mulching them. They don’t look like much in the cold and snow. Just wait.

Plans for me actually begin in the fall. I clear out the remains of the year’s garden, manure, cover beds and mulch the garden beds. The manure composts over the winter. The mulch keeps weeds from growing.

Many weeds start growing in the fall. By spring these are formidable plants. The most common in my garden are dead nettle and chickweed. Mulch stops these.

garlic in spring

Now this is a garlic bed! And those unhappy, spindly, cold garlic plants look like this after a month of spring weather.

I do allow these weeds to grow in my garden paths as they bloom early. Bees need early nectar sources. The pathways are weeded, covered and mulched about April.

What do I do for winter garden planning? First I decide what vegetables were popular, grew well and would be good for the next garden. Second I think about new vegetables to try. These are usually long lists.

Garden catalogs are great places for vegetable ideas. They do try to make every kind and variety sound too good to pass up.

winter garden planning for potatoes

Garden beds look so forlorn empty, covered with mulch and snow. These beds will grow potatoes in the spring.

The third step for winter garden planning is to map out the garden. My garden may seem large. It still has a limited number of beds. Even with succession planting, something that rarely works out well for me, my lists must be trimmed.

Each garden bed on my map is marked with what will be planted in it. The definite repeats from last year go in first. Then others are added as room permits.

This brings up the next consideration. Just how much do I need to grow?

I love growing potatoes. They usually grow well for me and make good eating.

spring potatoes

In April and May, those snow covered garden beds will be covered with big, green potato plants with potatoes hiding under the mulch.

There are two of us. We do not want to eat potatoes everyday. I do not want to throw potatoes away.

I plant three beds of potatoes. That is about ninety plants. Enough for us and a few friends.

Tomatoes are another popular crop. I normally plant four kinds: a paste, a red eating, a yellow eating and a cherry. Three plants of each produce plenty for fresh use, frozen supplies and extras.

My favorite vegetables are the colored bell peppers. Last year I grew eight colors. These might be popular at a Farmers Market, but most of mine ripen too late so I gave away several bags of them. This year I will grow four colors, eight plants of each.

In a way, winter garden planning is as hard as the actual garden is. My plan never quite works. Cold, wet spring weather or summer drought or heat wave or invading creatures don’t show up on the plan, but still happen.

Why keep doing a plan? So I can try to keep the chaos in check. Besides, I need to order seeds and start seedlings.

My Ozarks Home

This year will make twenty-five years for me here in the Ozarks. I have been looking through photographs and reminiscing about my Ozarks home.

A photograph is flat. It can’t show anyone the smells, feel or sounds of being out walking in the Ozarks. A photograph does trigger my memories of when I took the picture. Words can try to add depth to that picture.

stumps in mist on my Ozarks home

This pile of stumps was at the base of the hill pasture when I first saw the pasture, relics of when the pasture was cleared sometime in the past. They are slowly disappearing.

One of the wonderful things about living here in the Ozarks has been the opportunity to go out walking away from people and their noises. There are still times when such noise is not heard here.

I read how many people, especially young people must have their digital devices, must share their every experience right then. I pity them.

Leaving those devices behind lets me think my own thoughts, see things in my own way, get in touch with myself.

spider on web

Late summer and early fall is the time of large spiders. These orb weavers favor pathways stretching their web from one side to the other. They are almost invisible. The first warning is focusing on a large spider hanging at eye height just before stepping into the web.

My local library had a book display for those wanting to learn yoga or mindfulness or other stress reduction technique. Walking the hills and pastures of my Ozarks home does this for me. Even better is sitting still in a special place looking up the hill or down to the creek, listening to the wind, the water, the birds and the insects.

I do take one digital device with me out on my walks. My camera. I take pictures not so much to share with others as to let me revisit my walk other days. This is wonderful on those cold, cloudy, dreary days of winter.

Most of my pictures are of the plants for my botany project. Some of these are beautiful. Many others are of my goats, chickens and cats.

my Ozarks home creek

The creek runs the length of the place. In some places it is narrow and runs quickly. In others, like here, it spreads out into broad pools.

Then there are those from around the hills and pastures. They range through the seasons. They are panoramas and close ups. Each has a story to tell about being here at my Ozarks home.

As I looked through my photographs, I did come to want to share them with others, to show others why my Ozarks home is so special. Slowly a book is coming together. I plan to have it finished by this fall.

Planning Cardua Science Fiction

Winter is down time mostly for me. The garden is done. The goats are eating hay peeking out at the bad weather. The chickens are on vacation. I write. This winter I am planning Cardua.

What is Cardua?

It is Earth, except the Arkosans don’t know that. All they know is the little piece of the Ozarks where they are now stranded. They call it Cardua.

planning Cardua landing site

The Arkosan space ship is 30 inches long and 18 inches wide. Still, that requires a good sized rock ledge for it to land. These rocks are a bit small, but the ideal set up. The Carduan Chronicles begins with their arrival.

Science fiction is one of the genres I read lots of during and after university. I liked the science base used by Isaac Asimov. A modern novel in that vein is “The Martian” by Andy Weir.

So “The Carduan Chronicles” became a science-based science fiction survival tale. Nine Arkosans are stranded in an Ozark ravine. They arrive during a February ice storm. Since they are very small, they won’t venture far from where they landed.

That leaves me planning Cardua.

planning Cardua view

Compared to the Arkosans, I am a giant. So I got down to their level to see what they would see out the door lock on their space ship. The trees look a lot taller. The rock ledge has no easily seen boundary. That brings a new challenge in writing this book as I must remember to see the world through their eyes, not mine.

If you were stranded out in the wilderness, no phone, no way to contact anyone or get home, no hope of rescue, what would you need to survive? My list includes water, food, shelter and protection from predators and weather.

Why an Ozark ravine? Because I thought I had the perfect place a short distance from the house. Except I didn’t.

Now I am planning Cardua by using parts of several ravines and creating the perfect place for the story. First, the Arkosans needed a place to land their ship. I found two large, flat rocks sitting one on top of the other that will do nicely.

planning Cardua ravine

This Ozark glacier was a surprise find up in a ravine with the perfect set up for the Carduan landing site, if I move the rock ledge into place. The glacier could add some spice to the story as well. Ice skating anyone?

Second, the Arkosans will need a water source. In the beginning they will use ice from an ice storm. Later they will need a more permanent source.

The Ozarks have lots of springs and seeps. One branch of the Carduan ravine will have a spring. I found this in a different ravine.

Third, the Arkosans will need a place to build homes. I’m still working on this but have a couple of places with possibilities.

Fourth, the Arkosans will need flat land to farm. I found this in a ravine, actually two ravines. The problem is flooding. The flat lands are the mouths of wet weather creeks.

Research is part of writing. The nice part of planning Cardua is the excuse to go out exploring the ravines in winter.

Helpful Curious Kids

Anyone familiar with goats knows both adults and kids are playful and curious. They get into everything they possibly can.

Curious kids are especially prone to leaving havoc behind them. Their small size makes turning things over to check out the inside mandatory.

This winter I have three kids and a half grown doe. The four form a formidable gang.

two curious kids

Two of my curious kids stand plotting their next move. One stunt they haven’t managed yet is to turn over a bucket of oats only because the bucket is out of reach.

The youngest was a very late kid, born November 1. She will be up for sale next month.

The next twins are from late last spring. These two are saboteurs. When I first went to advertise these spotted beauties for sale, one promptly broke a front leg.

The leg healed nicely. So I tried again to advertise the pair. They promptly came down with a virus and happily spread it to the entire herd.

The herd is now well. The kids are fine. I should again advertise these kids for sale, but am hesitant. What disaster will they cook up next?

Agate is my half grown herd addition. She is very spoiled. At almost a year old, she still gets a small bottle of milk morning and evening.

curious kids gang member

High Reaches Spring’s Agate is bigger now and thinks she is one of the big goats. Still, she loves to play and get into things with the other younger kids.

Before the present cold spell, I put the goats out during the day for a few hours. This lets the boys have the run of the barn lot and small pasture. It lets me clean out the barn, make repairs, do whatever is needed.

The herd is not impressed. The pastures have little to offer them. Drought has robbed them of the usual thick grasses. Winter has robbed them of browse.

I wanted to go out walking. The herd wanted someone to follow. I went down to the small gate into the pasture to find curious kids playing with something.

What was it these curious kids were playing with? It didn’t look like a fallen tree branch. They ignore the rocks scattered from when the new electric pole was put in.

The kids made me curious. I went out to take a look.

This was the last week of December. Deer don’t shed antlers until January. Except this year they are early. Still, I never find sheds.

sheds curious kids found

Antlers are very impressive when you hold them. They are heavy. The tines are sharp. The tines feel smooth. The base area is rough.

Thanks to those curious kids and a very large buck deer I’ve never seen, I now have a lovely matched set of ten point antlers.

Feeding Starving Cardinals

Winter has decided to remind us this season is supposed to be cold. I think highs in the forties are cold enough. Winter disagrees.

I bundle up to face the cold. Non hibernating wild creatures try, but their main defense is eating extra food. The starving cardinals have arrived at the bird feeder.

starving cardinals wait

Starving cardinals line up waiting for seeds to arrive, then wait their turn in the feeder after the blue jays have come and gone.

There are lots of birds eating at the bird feeder this winter. Mourning doves, titmice, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees and red breasted woodpeckers are the most numerous. Cardinals have been around the last few years, but not in great numbers.

This year is different. This year a flock of cardinals has moved into the area.

Our feeder isn’t fancy. It’s only a platform with a roof over it. The roof is new this year.

starving cardinal

Male cardinals are in their spring finery already making them a vivid red in a gray world. They begin marking out nesting territories in February.

The roof sets down around the platform and is not attached to it. Wind finds the roof is an airfoil. Strong winds lift the roof assembly off the feeder and drop it to the ground a few feet away.

I do tie the roof down, but baling twine wears out. So, every few years I need to repair or build a roof.

Our bird feed isn’t fancy either. Sunflower seeds, scratch feed and peanut butter go out every morning and get picked up every night.

Birds have cleaned off the grass seed, the giant ragweed seeds, the thistles, the chicory. Much of the fall seed crop never appeared due to drought. Lean times are adding to cold this winter.

downy woodpecker

This smallest woodpecker in the area is the Downy Woodpecker. They are common visitors to the bird feeder loving peanut butter and sunflower seeds.

Around dawn each morning I look out the kitchen window toward the bird feeder. As light seeps across the yard, I can see the starving cardinals lining up in the old apple tree.

The other birds are there too. Brilliant red feathers make cardinals easy to spot. They give the now dead tree a Christmas look adorning gray branches with red ornaments.

Later the seeds are out on the feeder. It is rush hour. Birds swoop in, eat, glide away. Some swoop in, grab a seed and fly off to eat in the peach tree.

Simple as it is, the bird feeder does well. It lets me watch the birds, both the regulars and the surprise visitors like rose breasted grosbeaks and towhees. It makes sure the starving cardinals and other birds don’t starve in spite of lean and cold times.

Christmas Fern Polystichum acrostichoides

Lace and ferns seem to go together. Fern fronds like on the Christmas fern have such graceful arches, a great mound of green. I went around the curve of a hill and found a wrinkle where water runs after a big storm lined with large ferns. It became a favorite place to go just to admire these beautiful plants.

 

Polystichum acrostichoides Schott

June to October                                           N                                 Family: Dryopteridaceae

Christmas fern sori

Sporangia: A fertile leaflet has a double row of circular sori under it. These have 64 tiny ball-shaped spores under them. The spores well and turn brown as they mature turning the entire underside of the leaflet an orange brown.

Christmas fern leaf

Leaf: Each compound leaf has twenty to thirty pairs of leaflets arranged alternately. Each leaflet has a prominent ‘thumb’ sticking up near the petiole. A long, single leaflet tips the petiole. Each leaflet has forked veins and toothed edges. Many of the fronds have the usual leaflets half way up then have a series of smaller, more triangular leaflets. These are the fertile leaflets with sporangia under them.

Christmas fern petiole

Stem: Clumps of petioles come up from various places on the rhizome. Each green petiole is grooved. The base has hair-like brown scales which look like scattered hairs higher up. The petioles can be two to three feet long.

Christmas fern fiddlehead

Fiddlehead: These appear in early spring. They are light green, an inch across and covered with silvery scales that look like hairs. These turn brown as the frond unrolls past them.

Root: The perennial root is a rhizome.

Habitat: This plant prefers light shade and moist places. It is common on the slopes of ravines and wet weather water courses.

 

Christmas Fern

Christmas fern plant

In the fall Christmas Fern leaflets turn dark green, become shorter and lie flat on the ground. These fronds stay green all winter. They were gathered and used as Christmas decorations giving the fern its common name.

During the spring and summer, Christmas ferns are among the showiest Ozark ferns. They can form large linear colonies along fold on hillsides where rain water gathers. They line the slopes of ravines and higher sections of ravine floors. They like moist areas but not wet ones.

The ‘thumb’ on the leaflets is a definite identification when coupled with the thick, green petiole. Ebony Spleenwort also sports these ‘thumbs’ but has a thin, wiry petiole and is much smaller.

Christmas ferns are available commercially. They are easy to grow in the right places. They grow well in pots.

Finding Ferns In the Ozarks

Finding ferns in the Ozarks means leaving the lacy, arching sprays of fronds picture of ferns in the market. Some Ozark ferns look like that, but most don’t. Many are much smaller as well.

Ferns do have leaves. Familiar plants like spicebush have buds that split open and tiny leaves expand out of them. Ferns unroll their leaves from fiddleheads.

fern fiddlehead

Fiddleheads begin as tiny bumps. They seem to unroll as they grow taller. Tiny leaves expand as the fiddlehead unrolls past them until the entire frond is there looking much too big to fit into such a tiny package.

There are people who eat some kinds of these fiddleheads. They can make you feel ill, if you eat very many.

finding ferns walking ferns

Walking ferns use their leaf-like fronds to ‘walk’ new plants across the rocks. Look in damp places such as ravines or open hillsides of moist bluff rocks to find them.

Once fern leaves unroll, they look very different from one another. Walking ferns have triangular leaves with long tips that reach over to start new plants. Maidenhair ferns have leaflets like tiny fans. Grape ferns and bracken have a single lacy leaf. Christmas ferns look like small commercial ferns.

Most fern leaves have two parts. One is the stem or rachis. This can be covered with hairs, wide or narrow, cordlike or winged, green or red.

finding ferns Christmas ferns

Christmas ferns look much like the ferns people think of. Each of the leaflets on the fronds has a little thumb sticking up near the stem or rachis.

Leaflets attach to the rachis. These can be alternate or opposite. Some are simple and others lobed or even divided multiple times into fine lace.

Finding ferns means looking in different places. Many do prefer moister locations. Christmas ferns like the sides of ravines. Walking ferns like wet bluff rocks. Grape ferns prefer the floors of ravines.

finding ferns cut leaf grape fern

Three grape ferns call Missouri home. These have a single frond and a stalk topped with tiny ‘grapes’ that split to release spores. This is a cut leaf grape fern.

I have always liked ferns and have done my best to notice the various ferns around on my hills. The difficulty has always been to identify the various ones. Some are easy. A few have defied my attempts for years.

finding ferns maidenhair ferns

Maidenhair ferns have circular fronds. The dark,cord like stalk or rachis has a partial ring with compound fronds sticking straight out. Look for these in moist ravines and along streams and wet weather creeks in shady places.

Now I am trying my luck finding all the different kinds of ferns found in Dent County. According to Yatskievych’s Flora of Missouri, Volume 1, there are 22 known to occur here and 9 more possibles. So far I’ve found 9 of the known, 3 of the possibles and have 3 unknowns.

Droughts are hard on ferns. My holiday wish is for the drought to break. Even though few plants are actively growing over the winter, the soil would stockpile that water for next spring when I can renew my quest of finding ferns.

Winter Deer Come Calling

One of the advantages to not keeping dogs is seeing wildlife in the backyard. Some like the possums raid the persimmon trees. Winter deer come to trim the lawn.

Deer do come through the yard late at night over the summer. I find their tracks in the driveway. These deer are no fools. Weekly mowed grass is much thicker and juicier than the wild grass left to go to seed.

Summer deer are tan to reddish brown. Their coats are sleek.

winter deer close by

Much of the time deer grazing through the backyard stay at the rear of the yard near the ravine. Winter deer come up closer to the house as the grass is still longer. This one went by under the bird feeder. Birds are sloppy eaters and sunflower seeds taste good.

Winter deer are different. These deer have traded their summer coats in on dark brown edging into black ones. These are bushy coats.

Hunting season is mostly over. The gun portion is. The deer seem to know this and come before dark.

The dry weather has dried much of the vegetation on the hills. The cold has withered much of the rest of it. Deer need to keep eating to keep warm.

winter deer grazing

Good winter grazing is getting scarce early this year because of the drought. The young deer was eating as much as she could on her way across the yard.

Lawns don’t grow much over the winter. Ours starts a bit long as we quit mowing before the grass stops growing. It’s about six inches tall when the killing frosts put the grass to sleep for the winter.

The yard is in a low area. It stays moist longer than the hills. The grass is still green.

After the sun goes behind the hill, the first winter deer wanders out of the wet weather creek and grazes its way across the yard. This is a younger doe. She goes back into the brush on the other side of the yard.

winter deer on alert

This young deer has spotted me sneaking around from the back porch camera in hand. Her bushy cheeks are part of her winter coat.

A second larger doe then follows a similar route. She is hard to see in the dusk.

There were a couple of younger bucks grazing in the yard before hunting season. If they are still around, they are coming through after dark now. Once it rains again, their tracks will show they’ve been by.

Winter deer like winter birds are a pleasant distraction from winter chores in the cold.

Winged Sumac Rhus copallinum

I suppose many people would chop down the winged sumac on the hill. We do now and then when it gets too tall and thick. But the hill there is too steep to do much else, the sumac is pretty especially in the fall and the praying mantises love it for laying their eggs. So the sumac stays.

Rhus copallinum L.

June to July                                                  N                                 Family: Anacardiaceae

winged sumac umbel

Flower: Branches end with terminal clusters of flowers forming a drooping cone. Each yellowish white flower is tiny, an eighth of an inch across with five petals and five stamens. The calyx under the flower has five triangular lobes that spread out.

winged sumac flowers

Leaf: The alternate leaves are compound with seven to twelve leaflets. The first pair of leaflets is the shortest and they get bigger as they go toward the tip and can reach three inches long. The center stem is winged. The edges are smooth. The leaves are not hairy.

winged sumac leaf

Stem: New stems are hairy. Older stems lose the hairs and become woody with a smooth gray bark dotted with lenticels or raised spots. The stems often branch forming leggy shrubs. Most are five to six feet tall, but can reach 20 feet.

winged sumac under leaf

Root: There is a perennial taproot and rhizomes.

winged sumac bark

Fruit: The single seeds have a red, fleshy coating and are hairy. The red darkens over the winter, if the seeds are not eaten.

winged sumac bud

Habitat: This plant likes sunny, drier areas such as prairies, old fields and roadsides.

winged sumac berries

Edibility: Fresh berries can be steeped. The tea must be filtered to remove the hairs.

winged sumac in summer

Winged Sumac

Dwarf Sumac, Shining Sumac

winged sumac in fall

Early in fall Winged Sumac turns brilliant, glowing scarlet. As it tends to form large colonies, this can be quite spectacular to see. Over the summer the colony is dark green.

There are several sumacs. This one is easy to identify by the winged stems joining the leaflets.

When the flowers open, the air hums from the many insects moving between the clusters. The flowers are too small to see unless you are very close. From a distance the cluster changes from green to off white. The flowers are very engaging to the insects as you can get close enough to examine the flowers without disturbing the busy plying of the bees, wasps, flies and beetles.

The tea from the berries has a slightly lemony taste. The tea is often called Indian Lemonade, although the Indians called it Quallah. It is good plain or sweetened. It does have to be filtered as the hairs are small and stiff and ruin the drink. A good measure is two cups of berries per quart of hot, not boiling, water. This can be adjusted to taste. Dried berries (not old berries off the bushes) can be used.

Enjoy more about the Ozarks in Exploring the Ozark Hills, a book of nature essays and photographs.

My New Polled Kid

Late kids, especially single kids, are at a disadvantage. They lack the large play group earlier kids have. The kid equipment such as disbudding iron and tattooer are cleaned and put away. This is a polled kid so some of the equipment can stay locked away.

When I first started raising Nubians, polled goats were not difficult to find. Horns are a nuisance at best and a disaster waiting to happen at worst. Disbudding, banding and dehorning are not enjoyable at all. Polled was the way to go.

There wasn’t much of a meat goat market back then. So the uptick in hermaphrodites was a problem. It seemed tied to polled. Polled fell out of favor.

polled kid standing still

Standing quietly beside another doe kid, my new polled kid looks so tame. In truth, I was lucky to get this picture as she is rarely still for more than a few seconds.

I still have polled does in my herd. High Reaches Butter’s Juliette is one of them. This polled kid is her daughter. I have kept another daughter, Lydia, also polled.

One problem goat owners have with a polled kid is knowing whether or not it is polled. The polled trait is dominant so three out of four kids from a polled parent will statistically be polled. Reality can be very different.

I look at the hair on the head. Horn buds have a swirl over the top of them. Polled horn bosses have a ridge over them.

Horn buds are pointed. Horn bosses are rounded.

Skin is supposed to be fixed over horn buds and moves over polled horn bosses. I have trouble with this as a kid’s skin is so loose.

Juliette’s daughter is now a month old. She has no horns. I was right. She is a polled kid. She is also a livewire.

polled kid playing

The edge of the creek is a great place to jump up and down according to this goat kid. She loves to jump up onto things. And she is good at jumping, getting up a stack of four bales of hay! Luckily she knows how to get down again.

The milking room is a great playground. This kid leaps on the milk stands under the does. She leaps onto the hay at the end of the section. She pesters the cats.

To everyone’s relief, the kid has discovered oats. She now spends at least part of the time eating. Unfortunately she still insists on eating out of her own dish and everyone else’s dishes, preferably with hooves in the dish, as well.

Being a live wire and a late kid has another advantage. She has been racing out with the herd from nine days old. She has never been left behind or needed finding.

At three months old, this polled kid must be sold. I hope she goes home with someone who values her lively ways and personality.

Goat kids can be lots of fun or give lots of grief. Capri does some of both in Capri Capers.

Thimbleweed Anemone virginiana

Thimbles are still around, but many people don’t know what they are now. Still, thimbleweed seed capsules don’t really look like my thimbles. They have so many little hooked beaks sticking out. That would never do in sewing as the material would snag.

Anemone virginiana L.

June to August                                                         N                     Family: Ranunculaceae

thimbleweed flower

Flower: Each stem has a single terminal flower. There are five greenish to white sepals and no petals spreading out to three quarters of an inch across. The sepals have a narrow base, flare out and taper to a shallowly lobed tip. There are three lobes. The edges curl upwards. The center of the flower is a mound of green pistils surrounded by a base of stamens.

thimbleweed side flower

Leaf: Most of the leaves are basal. A single whorl of two or three leaves occurs about half way up the stem. Each leaf is deeply lobed into two or three sections sometimes seeming to divide the leaf into leaflets. Each lobe has two or three shallow lobes. The edges have large, coarse teeth. The lobes and teeth have sharp points. The leaf is on a long petiole with scattered hairs.

thimbleweed leaf

Stem: A single stem or several grow up from the root to a height of one to two and a half feet. It is unbranched although second stems can go up from the single whorl of leaves. The stem is round, green with scattered hairs.

thimbleweed under leaf

Root: The perennial root is a rhizome.

thimbleweed stem

Fruit: The mound of pistils increases in size and can approach an inch long, half that wide. It is thimble-shaped and each pistil sticks out as a little beak. In fall the seed head becomes a mass of wooly hairs attached to the tiny seeds.

thimbleweed fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers light shade and good soil. It is drought tolerant, but prefers moister conditions. It grows along roads, in ravines, along streams and in open woods.

thimbleweed open fruit

Thimbleweed

thimbleweed plant

Although the basal leaves of the Thimbleweed are large and distinctive, the plant often goes unnoticed until the tall stems go up and the flowers open. The leaves are a study in threes: three leaves in a whorl, three large lobes per leaf, and three shallow lobes in each large lobe.

The flowers can be mistaken for no others. The flower sits atop the stem with white sepals spread wide. Since the stamens are long and numerous, they give the flower a bushy look.

For weeks after the sepals have fallen away, the thimble remains. It gains in size. For those who learned hand sewing, a thimble was essential to protect the index finger from the needle. The thimble of the Thimbleweed is the right size and shape.

In the fall the thimbles become a fluffy mass. This generally begins on one side of the thimble and spreads until the entire thimble breaks apart. The wind pulls the mass apart as separate seeds fly away.

This is an interesting plant and easy to grow once established. Several of them would make nice foci in a shady bed. The plants do like some open ground around them.

Rooster Politics

Somehow I ended up with three roosters. There is one too many according to the hens, but I can’t decide which one should go.

In the meantime, I get to watch rooster politics in action. This is rather complicated.

The oldest rooster is three years old. He is mature, big and solid. He rules the flock and terrorizes the other roosters.

Big Rooster

The old rooster is a magnificent bird. His colors glow. His bearing is regal. His body is wide and meaty. He rules mostly because of his size. His age has mellowed him for the hens, so they like to stay close.

The middle rooster is two years old. He is getting his mature size. He tries hard to get the hens to like him, but they don’t seem to trust him.

The youngest rooster is a year old. All he seems to think about is chasing the hens. Any time he sees a hen by herself, he races off after her.

The hens know this young rooster is after them. They are not happy about it. They play rooster politics to keep the young upstart at bay.

Dominique rooster

Like a middle child, the middle rooster is hanging around. He is too young and aggressive to attract lots of hens to his side. He is too old to pursue them with ruthless abandon. His dream is to succeed the old rooster who is well aware of this ambition and determined to keep it from happening anytime soon.

When the young rooster races off after a hen, she starts giving alarm calls and streaks across the yard toward either of the other roosters. The other roosters head for her to intercept the young rooster.

The middle and young rooster often end up with neck feathers flared and bodies low to the ground. A couple of sparring bouts later, the young rooster leaves. The hen meanwhile has gone back to bug hunting.

When the young rooster is really on the prowl, the cluster of hens by the old rooster gets large. He stands proudly in the center of what he seems to assume are his admiring wives.

In fact, the hens are mostly ignoring him as they busily look for edibles in the area. They are there only because it keeps the young rooster away.

Arcana rooster

The youngest rooster looks great with his fancy feathers. The hens are not impressed as he does little more than chase them. Being smaller and faster than the other two roosters, he gets away with a lot of activities frowned on by them.

The middle rooster announces he has found some delicacy to lure some hens away from the old rooster. The hens are reluctant to go over because, although he is no longer acting like the young rooster, he still likes to put on displays and mount hens near him.

The young rooster meanwhile is sneaking up on the group of hens by circling around them. One squawks and the chase is on.

The old rooster races off after the young rooster. The hens go back to bug hunting. The old rooster returns a short time later to take up his position once again.

Rooster politics seems to be a compromise affair. Each rooster has a place in the hierarchy. Each spars with the others seeking to improve his placing.

In the end, each rooster knows how he fits into the social network. The hens do much the same among themselves.

Long Leaf Bluet Houstonia longifolia

It’s easy to overlook the long leaf bluet flowers in the spring as they are small, the plants are small and delicate. Once spotted, that delicacy makes them easy to identify and worth watching for in other places.

Houstonia longifolia Gaertn.

April to July, rarely fall                             N                                 Family: Rubiaceae

Long Leaf Bluet flower

Flower: Irregular clusters of flowers branch out of stem tips. A few flowers open randomly at a time. Each flower has a stalk as long as the flower, about half an inch. The flower has a cup-shaped, green calyx with four teeth around the base. The flower is a half inch long tube that splits into four or five lobes that spread out flat a quarter inch across. This flower can be white to purplish pink and is covered with hairs. A flower may be a pistillate one having a pistil and shriveled stamens or have several stamens and a shriveled pistil.

Long Leaf Bluet side flower

Leaf: There can be a basal rosette, but this is usually gone before the plant blooms. Opposite leaves line the branches. More small branches of leaves come from the leaf axils. Each leaf is green, half to an inch long and less than a quarter inch wide.

Long Leaf Bluet leaf

Stem: Each crown puts up numerous stems. The stems are green with four angles, branches and can reach ten inches tall. The upper branches have terminal flower clusters.

Long Leaf Bluet under leaf

Root: The perennial root is a crown with fibrous roots.

Long Leaf Bluet stem

Fruit: The seed pod is a globular, two sided capsule with several seeds in each side. This turns brown and dries so the capsule splits to release the seeds.

Long Leaf Bluet fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers sunny, drier places and can be common in prairies, open woods, pastures and roadsides.

 

Long Leaf Bluet

Slender-leaved Bluet

Long Leaf bluet plant

Walking along this plant catches attention due to the number of flowers on it. Long Leaf Bluets are a leggy plants. Everything about them is slender, the leaves, the stems and the flowers.

The stem is less than an eighth of an inch in diameter. The leaves are about an eighth of an inch wide. The flowers are a quarter of an inch across. This leaves the plant looking delicate and leggy although it’s less than a foot tall.

The flowers usually look light pink to white. These show up well against the dark green leaves. The many clusters are full of buds so lots of flowers open each day.

Long Leaf Bluets are moving into rock gardens. They are easy to grow from seed and return bigger every year. They are not fussy about soil and don’t mind a bit of dryness.

Finding Protective Mother Goat

November is an iffy time for kids to be born. Newborn kids get cold easily. Having a protective mother goat helps.

High Reaches Butter’s Juliette is such a goat. She is very proud of her new baby born November 1. She was not impressed when I put a goat coat on the kid because she was cold.

Luckily the next day warmed up. The goat coat came off. The kid fluffed up and is fine, even on cold nights now.

During the summer, goat kids must stay at the barn until they are almost a month old. The grass is so tall, they can’t see their mother. Even a protective mother goat has trouble keeping track of her kids.

Nubian protective mother goat and kid

Even in the barn lot standing next to the barn, High Reaches Butter’s Juliette is standing guard over her kid. The doe kid is not worried. She is lively and curious.

Fall is different. A fall in dry weather is even more different. The grass is barely six inches tall. A kid is twelve inches tall and gaining daily.

Like most goats, Juliette hates to stay locked in the barn lot when the herd goes out. She is a herd animal. She stands and calls all day. Since she is a Nubian, these calls are loud.

There is incentive to let Juliette go out for the day. There is incentive to keep her in to feed her kid.

Newborn kids aren’t very active. Over the summer they may lay around sleeping most of the time for a couple of weeks. Winter kids seem to get active much faster. Juliette’s kid was racing around at a week old.

Still, a week is very young to go out tramping around the pastures. I hate to go out searching for lost kids.

Protective mother goat talks to kid

Juliette talks to her kid a lot. At a week old, the kid still listens most of the time.

Late one afternoon, when the kid was nine days old, I let Juliette take her out for a couple of hours.

The kid came in with the herd. The kid had a wonderful time. The kid was standing at the pasture gate with the herd the next day.

Another difference with the fall schedule is morning hay. This means the goats are happily munching through milking time and a little beyond. They don’t go out until noon.

A kid has only three to four hours to keep up. A protective mother goat can keep up with her kid that long.

I opened the gate. The herd walked through. After all, they weren’t hungry.

An hour later Juliette was still by the gate. The kid hadn’t gone over the bridge with the herd, so they were standing by the gate.

I picked the kid up and took her across the bridge with Juliette following. I set the kid down. The herd was close by.

That evening the herd came in. Juliette and her kid were not with them. I went looking.

Juliette was at the top of a hill with her kid. Protective mother goat that she is, she could see the entire pasture from this vantage point. She refused to come down.

I had to go up. Me, in my mucking out the barn shoes with slick soles, had to scale a hill covered with loose gravel (This is the Ozarks norm.) on a forty degree angle. This required using hands and feet along with trying not to think about the trip down.

Juliette stood there and watched me. She yawned. She wandered over to the side of the hill and started going down calling her kid to follow.

protective mother goat in pasture with kid

The kid may think a nap is due. Juliette stays beside her, not grazing more than a mouthful now and then. Danger may threaten. She must be on the alert.

I followed lurching from tree to tree to keep from falling. At least Juliette had trained her kid well to follow her so I wasn’t trying to carry the kid as well as stay on my feet.

Thankfully Juliette and her kid stayed with the herd the next day.

Nubian goat kids can get into lots of trouble. Capri is in top form in Capri Capers. check out this wild melodrama filled with villains chasing Capri’s owner.

New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus

This is one wildflower I overlook until I smell the flowers. This is strange as New Jersey Tea is a big plant. The ones I see are often overshadowed by surrounding, bigger plants and tend to spread wide instead of getting tall. it is a plant worth looking for.

Ceanothus americanus L.

May to November                                       N                                 Family: Rhamnaceae

New Jersey Tea flowers

Flower: Branch tips are surrounded by clusters of white flowers. Other clusters come from leaf nodes. Each flower is barely a quarter inch across with 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 stamens and a pistil on a stalk, all white. The flowers are fragrant.

New Jersey Tea flower umbel

Leaf: Leaves line the stems and are mostly alternate, but can be opposite. Each leaf is egg-shaped on a short petiole. Three big veins go out from the leaf’s base. The tip is rounded. The leaf is dark green with scattered hairs on top and light green with prominent veins and short hairs on the bottom.

New Jersey Tea leaf

Stem: Multiple stems come up from the root. They branch and can reach three feet in height. The stems start out light green turning yellowish and becoming woody especially at the base as they get older. The younger stems are hairy.

New Jersey Tea under leaf

Root: This perennial has a taproot.

New Jersey Tea stem

Fruit: There are 3 seeds inside a three lobed pod. These turn brown and dry when ripe splitting open to eject the seeds forcefully enough to travel several feet.

New Jersey Tea Fruit

Habitat: This plant likes sunny places. these can be drier areas such as prairies, fields, roadsides and edges of woods.

Edibility: Many animals eat this plant. The leaves can be dried and used for tea. It has historical medicinal uses.

 

New Jersey Tea

Wild Snowball

New Jersey Tea plant

Walking along the rich, sweet scent of New Jersey Tea alerts the walker to the presence of the plant. It is easy to spot with its white flower clusters looking like a stockpile of snowballs waiting to be used.

Shortly before the revolutionary War, the colonists boycotted English tea. This was a popular beverage. The leaves from this plant were used as a substitute for tea giving it the common name of New Jersey Tea.

The plant can be fairly large, reaching three feet tall and as much or more side. The foliage is attractive. It does convert some nitrogen into useable form.

The flowers are present for several months although the clusters are fewer in number and look a little ragged as the season progresses. The seed pods are interesting to look at as the clusters of them are as big as the flower cluster they replace.

Once established, the plant increases in size each year. It is drought resistant.

Twine Has Many Uses

Cold weather has arrived. Killing frost has eliminated much of the browse favored by the goats. Hay goes into the hay troughs and twine accumulates in the barn.

My old barn accommodates square bales. I prefer them as they are small enough for me to handle. The flakes are easy to count out for the goats.

Each bale is tied with two lengths of twine. Each piece is about five feet long. It’s good twine, too good to throw away.

So the piles accumulate. A long nail is covered. Another nail is covered. they are piled so high new pieces slide off.

twine gate hinge

Over the summer the end of the shade house is open for easy access. When the shade house becomes a greenhouse, a plastic covered piece of cattle panel goes up. Twine makes great temporary gate hinges.

One pile is almost gone now. It moved to the garden.

I started with two cattle panels bent to form a long trellis so the inside could have some shade. That end of the garden got far too hot for most plants during the summer.

Then I thought about covering this shade house with plastic to form a cold greenhouse over the winter. This worked well. In fact, on sunny days the inside was a balmy summer day.

Then the wind began. We’ve always had some wind. A few days here and there weren’t a problem. Breezes weren’t a problem.

Now the wind blows most days hard enough to blow the plastic off the winter greenhouse. Plastic is hard to hold down when its laying over wire panels.

twine over greenhouse

This temporary greenhouse is great for cole crops like turnips, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Wind is a problem as it lifts and destroys the plastic. The twine pieces should keep the plastic from lifting.

Watching the plastic made me think. The wind pulls the plastic up. It also gets inside and billows the plastic up.

I tried tossing some flexible wire pieces over the plastic. These helped, but would slide off.

Twine offered a possible solution. So the pile moved out to the garden.

Three pieces tied together would go over the panels. Each cattle panel had three of these lengths tied to on end.

twine ropes

Regular twine works well in the garden. Plastic twine is great for braiding ropes and lead ropes. These two 30 foot ropes are braided out of six strands of plastic baling twine and are used to tie down hay on my truck. I like a loop in the beginning end of the rope and tie off the other end.

Plastic went on the panels. Twine went over the plastic.

This did present a new problem as the twine kept the plastic from reaching the ground. The side garden beds are now buried under manure and mulch. This blocks the spaces.

The cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants weren’t happy about killing frost. Now they have their greenhouse to thwart the next round of frosts.

An old post has instructions for braiding a lead rope from baling twine. Find it here.

Pale Leather Flower Clematis versicolor

Finding and photographing a Pale Leather Flower vine in bloom can be challenging. Finding is the easy part as it is fairly common in places it likes to grow. Photographing can be difficult as the vines are often mixed into other vines such as virgin’s bower, yellow passion flower, cat briar and wild yam.

Clematis versicolor Small ex Rydb

May to June                                                  N                                 Family: Ranunculaceae

pale leather flower side flower

Flower: The flower is on a long stalk from a leaf node. It is formed from four sepals fused together in an egg-shape with the large end attached to the stalk. The small end opens up with the ends of the sepals curling out and back. The upper end of the flower is purple. the lower end is white or greenish white. A mass of stamens is inside the flower surrounding several pistils.

Pale Leather Flower flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves have long petioles and can be single or compound with 3 to 5 leaflets. All leaves or leaflets have smooth edges. They form a long oval with a short, tapered, rounded tip. There is a midvein. The other veins form a net lighter in color than the dark green leaf. The underside is light green.

pale leather flower leaf

Stem: Young stems are green and twine around anything nearby. Older stems turn reddish and woody. The stems are ridged. The vines can be fifteen feet long and generally bunch up over another plant rather than running the entire length. The stems put out numerous branches.

pale leather flower under leaf

Root: The perennial root is a rhizome.

pale leather flower stem

Fruit: A ball of seed pods, each like a tall hat with an extra long peak, contains the seeds. These mature and break open the now dry pods to spread a long fluffy line out to get caught by the wind.

pale leather flower fruit

Habitat: This plant likes shady, moist places such as open, low woods and ravines as well as roadsides near these places.

 

Pale Leather Flower

Leather Flower

pale leather flower plant

Pale Leather Flower vines spread across low growing vegetation and fences. It’s rare for them to go up into trees. The vines can twine but often only sprawl.

The flowers are easy to spot on vines growing along the roads. A single vine can have dozens of flowers on it. The flowers are unusual in both shape and color compared to other plants growing nearby.

Pale Leather Flower is available commercially. The leaves are a nice shade of green. The vines would grow well on a trellis or wire fence. The flowers bob and dance in any breeze on their long stalks. The seed pod groups are interesting to look at.