Belle of Dirt

Missouri Ozarks mom, mover of earth, photographer, plant enthusiast


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Hugelkultur

Walking through the woods a couple weekends ago with family, we came across an area of Pa Pa’s property that we hadn’t visited before. It was a far corner along the property line, the woods there so thick and close that the light was dimmed at least by half by the canopy above.

HugelkulturMound

Very old Hugelkultur mound

The wood’s floor was deep and spongy with leaves- even the usually prolific Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper wouldn’t sprout; mosquitoes were abundant, we could smell the leaf mould and wet permeating everything. Many scrubby cedars stretched up to the canopy, struggling for light but found little in the understory of taller trees. As a result, only the branches at the very tops still remained green and held needles; all the lower branches within reach were dead or dying and brittle to the touch. We pushed through to the edge of the property line and began to back track, when we came across several large mounds of earth in our path.  The mounds were 3-4 feet high and about 10-12 feet long. Rocks were piled on top of one of them as if to mark that spot. The larger two mounds were planted at the foot of a big cedar, this one towering over its straggling, sad looking younger cousins.

Shawnee are common in the St. James area and I had already spotted multiple thong trees pointing in the direction of a dry creek bed nearby. My sis in law speculated that they might be burial mounds. Under that darkening canopy, with sounds of water, critters chewing away at the rot and squirming about under a foot-thick carpet of decaying leaves and spongy wood- the idea of burial mounds seemed not only plausible but very likely. We also kept hearing something near us like footsteps or small rocks being tossed… but each time we stopped to listen, we heard only insects chewing and the whining hum of mosquitoes trying to feast on our ears.

I climbed to the top of one of the mounds so that I could look at it from a bird’s eye vantage point- it occurred to me that this would be rather irreverent if these were graves. Looking down on them though, they looked less like burial mounds. They reminded me more of  my Great Grandma’s old root cellar. We found four mounds in sets of two. They were placed with a space between them almost equal to the width of each mound. The tops of the mounds were squishy; the soil rich, deep and covered in moss.

We walked in the direction the thong trees were pointing after examining the mounds. Most of the thongs were in mature oaks that I’d guess their age to be about 80-100 years. By the way, I found this little guide from Missouri Conservation most helpful in guesstimating the age of  trees without counting rings: http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property/your-trees-and-woods/backyard-tree-care/how-old-tree

After traveling downhill for a bit, we came to what I expected to find, which was a creek bed. It was dry though, no active spring feeding into it. We wanted rocks to take back with us and had ridden down to that part of the property on Pa Pa’s 4-wheel drive mule, but I wasn’t sure that I would make it down to the stream-bed through all the thick undergrowth and trees. We opted to backtrack to the field and look for the source of the stream instead. We found it, at the bottom of a wide ravine that allowed a perfect size space to park the ATV in.

BigAssRockAt the top of the stream bed, there was a dam. It had been built of stacked rocks, earth and chunks of concrete that I noticed were decorated with bits of glass. The dam was about 5 feet at its widest point and spanned the bottom of the ravine like a bridge. The rocks I found there had mineral deposits that reminded me of the formations you see in the caves around here- I took one back to the house and Thurman said it had a lot of iron oxide in it and a fair amount of pyrite. It was a REALLY heavy rock for the size that it was. I also brought back another monster rock, which Miranda had to help me lift into the back of the mule. I’m still trying to decide where in our yard I want to park it. For now it’s sitting near the frog pond, since that is as far as I could carry it myself from the trunk of our car. :-p

When I got home, I decided to do a little research into what those strange hills in the woods might be. My husband read a fair bit about Shawnee burial mounds. I started looking at different types of root cellars. It was during my browsing of root cellars that I stumbled across pictures that looked EXACTLY like our mounds. 3-4 feet high, paired in sets of two, at the base of large trees. The word under the caption was Hugelkultur, which is a German word for “Hill culture.”

There has been a lot of interest in recent years regarding perma-culture, or permanent, sustainable methods of gardening or small scale farming. I’ve heard gardening called a “retired person’s” hobby, it’s coming back into vogue thanks to the popularity of survival-ism and prepping. Hill culture is method of lasagna gardening, which is layering different materials for your garden bed and planting right on top of the layers, then allowing all the materials to compost there in place. It’s less labor intensive than building compost piles and turning, watering and caring for them every day. The material breaks down slowly, feeding the plant roots on top as it turns into compost. The mounds we found in the woods would have broken down over time, spreading out and losing height as the bulky inner layer decomposed. After I read how Hugelkultur mounds are built, I understood why they felt spongy when I stood on them.hugelkultur

The inner layer of a Hugelkultur mound is bulky, rough material- such as tree trunks and limbs. Over this you would add a layer of a slightly lighter compost material- straw, chopped leaves, grass clippings, sod, large vegetable scraps, newspaper, cardboard, etc. Soil amendments can be added on top of this layer. I’ve read that the first couple years, nitrogen rich additives may be needed, since the tree trunks will absorb most of the free nitrogen in the pile until they reach saturation and begin to break down. Blood meal is great for this and relatively inexpensive. If you have access to manure, it’s full of nitrogen. Plants in the Legume family will also add nitrogen to the surrounding soil.
On top of all this bulk, you would add your actual soil. I have mostly clay and rocks here, so I’d probably use a mixture of purchased garden soil from the nursery, cut in half with some native clay. Clay is wonderful for holding nutrient value, it just sucks for drainage. Add plants, then mulch well as the final layer.

hugelkultur_how_to_imageThe mounds are built in pairs at an angle where the sun will pass over them side to side; some pictures I saw used  trees as a wind break on the north. Some left the space between the mounds empty so that every part of the hill was easily reachable. Others used the middle space for extra compost and added this center to the tops of the mounds as it broke down; this would give the hills a constant source of renewal and nutrient build up.

I’ve already chosen a spot in our yard where I intend to try this out. Even though I have a commercial drum-style composter, I would love to see if Hugelkultur gardening is as pain-free as its proponents claim. I already build raised beds for practically everything I grow in our yard, since few plants really love the rocky, clay soil. Plus, tilling clay only serves to dry it out and completely strip it of any nutrient value. A tilled garden simply wouldn’t work well in our yard. I tried it a couple times, then my tiller was retired to the shed up the hill after about 3 uses, it will likely see a revival only if we move.

I know our local Amish and Mennonites are genius when it comes to growing anything- if you’ve ever had one of their tomatoes from Farris Fruit Market in Camdenton, you’ll stop in there JUST for those. The Amish on Pa Pa’s property would have been the ones who built these mounds. I’m guessing they might have also dammed that spring, maybe to create an artesian well, in order to water their gardens.  I’ll post more pictures when I get back up to St James and can visit the mounds with a camera in hand. When I build mine, I’ll try to do a step by step write up on what I put into them and post later on whether or not they were superior for growing plants or not.

This site has some really excellent information about Hugelkultur and a ton of photos if you’re interested in learning more. http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ It also shows the progression of the mounds in graphic form, from year one all the way up to 20 years.

http://gardenhillbilly.hubpages.com/hub/Gardening-Without-Fertilizers-Tips# also has some great how to’s and tons of info on Hugelkultur gardening.

 


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Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice… Beetle…

FatCatDoorstop

Fat cat doorstop.

Nah. I’m not going to chance it. :)

We aren’t under attack by a half-mad pervert from the underworld, but have experienced a strange spectacle around here the past several days. My daughter found the first of our green invaders in the office, running right past the cat’s nose as she watched them trundle along their merry way. (*Note to self- “Cat cannot be depended on as anything but a doorstop.”) I caught a shiny green, very fast moving beetle the size of the cat’s paw in a wad of paper towel and tossed it out the back door. We resumed watching TV; a few minutes later I caught movement out of the corner of my eye- another beetle to catch and remove. As an added bonus, every single one I handled gave off a noxious smell and I had to scrub my hands with dish soap afterwards to get rid of the scent.

A few minutes passed, we saw one running across the living room floor. A few more minutes, our daughter reported another one in the office. I went to squash an empty soda can, couldn’t figure out what was banging around in it- thought someone had put trash in it- looked in the can- it was MOVING. Not trash. Another beetle. CATBeetleThere was a beetle on the movie cases. A beetle in our bedroom. A beetle on the living room windows. A beetle on my daughter’s bedroom curtains.
All of these sightings and removals were in the span of a couple hours. I was starting to wonder if there is a panic button to summon emergency exterminators.

While I spent a good portion of those two hours removing beetles, Tom was doing a little research on Wiki. Our unwanted house guests are called Caterpillar Hunter Beetles. The shiny, iridescent green beetles were brought over to New England from Europe to control gypsy moth populations. They have strong, sharp mandibles for killing and chewing their prey so should be handled with care. They will bite if trapped in clothing or handled- I was unlucky enough to get one inside my shirt while they were swarming our house. The resulting dance/jump/strip in driveway probably would have been quite amusing to our neighbors had they been watching. >.<

On the web, I’ve also seen them called Fiery Beetles. Their primary diet is caterpillars of all kinds- you don’t want these guys in your milkweed patch if you’re trying to draw monarchs to your yard. They are wonderful controllers of those nasty little bagworms (Eastern Tent Caterpillars) that can decimate a tree in hours after they hatch out of their tents. During his research, my husband assured me that they should be most welcome in the garden since they destroy other damaging insects. I would usually tend to agree, but when I went outside the evening of the house invasion, I could HEAR them crawling there were so many. The entire office side of our house looked like it was moving. The flower bed beneath the streetlight on that side of the house was moving. I couldn’t avoid stepping on quite a few that were all over the sidewalk.

Run little caterpillar!

Run little caterpillar!

I started having flashbacks of Stephen King’s Creepshow- that horrible bit with the cockroaches invading the guy’s apartment… I wanted to turn off the streetlight in hopes that they would see light elsewhere (Sorry neighbors!) and go there. I couldn’t even get to the switch- there were no less than 10 beetles crawling all over it and each other. I went back inside, a little bit freaked out; Tom reminded me that I could also turn the streetlight off by flipping the green breaker in our utility room, thankfully the light and pond pump are wired to their own breaker. I turned off the lights inside and out, shoved rolled up towels under the office and bedroom doors and hoped I wouldn’t wake up with beetles crawling on my face.

BeetlePoop

Yes. I took a picture of poop.

The next morning I went out to walk the dog and cringed as I stepped out the door, preparing myself for the swarm… it was gone. Not a single beetle in sight, except for the few we’d crushed on the sidewalk the night before. I walked the dog and on my way across the driveway noticed two piles of poop. It wasn’t made by deer, I’d seen plenty of that in the woods and knew what it looked like. The really noticeable thing about this poo was that it was very shiny. It was completely LOADED with bits of caterpillar beetle shell. I found another poo further up our driveway that was the same. Again, we searched the web, looking at poo pictures until we matched our deposits up with some raccoon leavings. Apparently raccoons will eat beetles. These particular raccoons must have STUFFED themselves with beetles, they were so full they didn’t even make it out of our driveway before they had to do their business. I know some of you in the city detest raccoons because they get in your garbage. They were my little saviors this week. My only worry is that they might come back and decide to try a little frog out of the pond. We like our frogs and don’t want them eaten.

There are still more than a few beetles left- enough to be beneficial to the garden without being outright creepy and a nuisance. I’m not big on spraying pesticides- with a small child and dogs in the yard and garden, I prefer to let nature perform its own checks and balances if possible. We don’t kill spiders if we can avoid it, I adore all our praying mantis, and ladybugs are most welcome as long as they bite the aphids and not me.

It occurred to me that I wrote last year or the year before about blister beetles on the tomato plants… perhaps this is going to become a yearly feature- the beetle write up.

I’m wondering why I can’t be swarmed by something charming… like butterflies or dragonflies???


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Non-garden related VD

Pinterest DogBecause people have garden-related VD all the time, right?
In this case, the VD is for Valentine’s Day- or in other words, that day of the year that I now forgo a romantic lunch or dinner dates with my husband for school parties involving preschool crafts, paper valentines and games like tossing bean bag shaped hearts. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Really. No, really.

Ok, maybe one little thing. Like Alice, I often give myself good advice, but I very seldom follow it.
I browsed through Pinterest, looking for creative ideas to spruce up the old Valentine’s box that were a bit more exciting that tissue paper and stickers. My daughter spotted an adorable dog that looked like it was cut out from felt shapes. I clicked the link and it went to a picture. No tutorial. And I was pretty sure that the thing was a bit TOO perfect; maybe a little Photoshop for good measure? Or perhaps that parent had an airbrushing paint gun and a machine to precisely cut all the shapes. I thought that perhaps I should go back and find something else, maybe one that came with instructions, but the child wanted “THAT ONE.” It was decided.

It was felt shapes glued to a box, how hard could it be really?

I realized I only had 5 sheets of felt available, and out of those only 3 colors would work for our dog. No big deal, I have old t-shirts that I’ve trashed in the yard. I hacked up a red one to use for the dog’s collar and accents. I didn’t have nearly enough of any one color to cover the back of the box, so I got some metal pipe tape out of the tool drawer and taped the box up with that. It’s shiny. What kid doesn’t like shiny?
I cut out the shapes and started gluing things on; so far so good. The face and the body all went on without any trouble, the collar only needed minor adjustment. It took me a couple tries on paper to get the heart shape with 3 perfect circle toes for the feet. I wound up drawing the heart shape, then using a water bottle cap to get the circles perfectly round. I used a straight pin to pin the paper pattern to my felt before cutting any felt. I only had one sheet of brown, so I had to make sure I didn’t make ANY mistakes or it meant a trip to Wal-Mart. Which meant I had to shower and put on real clothes, not house clothes. And shoes. And brush my hair. You get the idea.

Puppy Valentine BoxFeet shapes all cut out, I went on to try and glue the toe pads and hearts onto the foot. The fabric glue claims it will bond any fabric to most other materials instantly, you need only hold it for a few seconds, then let it dry to full strength over several hours. I worked on this box for 5 1/2 HOURS. The glue never stuck. It did dry though; it made the fabric all crusty, it stuck to my fingers. My fingers stuck to the felt, to the box, to the couch, to the table. The felt would not, for whatever reason, stick to itself. So I got out a needle and thread and hand-sewed the pads on.
Then I had to get the feet onto the body. Same problem. The white felt wouldn’t come off the box without tearing. It ACTUALLY STUCK. So I sewed through the box and all and stitched them on to the body.

It went pretty much the same with the facial features, the ears, the little heart (broke my thread and then the needle on that bit) and the bone bow. I sewed it all. I bled. I broke needles. I broke thread. My daughter was supposed to help with this project. She lost interest and wandered off to play computer games around the 11th time I glued myself to the couch.

All in all, even though it turned out to be a lot more work than I’d anticipated, the box didn’t turn out too bad at all. I varied it a bit from the original, with long, droopy ears instead of short ones. I prefer large dogs to purse dogs and the one in the original Pinterest post screams Pug. Ours looks a bit more like a mutt. I added my daughter’s name to the bone-bow so that other parents will know which box to stuff her Valentines in.
I’m very grateful for several things because of this project: I’m glad it’s almost spring and I’ll soon be able to get back to projects that are a bit more to my talent. Dirt, rocks and growing things. I’m glad it turned out as well as it did and that I gave my daughter her puppy box instead of telling her, “Sorry kid, it’s last year’s box for you.” I’ve learned that if you make things without instructions, it might be better to REALLY think things through prior to going at it with the glue. This would have been a project 3 hours shorter, had I only sewn this stuff together, THEN stuck it to the box.

That’s our box, in all it’s glory. And I’ll be sure to post this to Pinterest, so perhaps some other unsuspecting, glue challenged mother may learn from my adventures. :)

-B


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Just a quickie

No, I’m not dead.
LinnCreekFrozenI’m still in the throes of house remodeling and soon to be in house seeking mode. (I hope. Fingers crossed.)
I took a couple winter water shots today and thought I would share. This winter has been brutal compared to previous years, I’m a little afraid to see what plants didn’t survive the sustained cold. I suspect my crepe myrtle and Boston Ivy have both suffered. Although BOSTON Ivy should be used to long, cold winters, right? Ha. What’s in a name anyway?FrozenLake
I haven’t seen the main channel of the Lake of the Ozarks frozen over on either side for years; this year it is actually frozen in Osage Beach and on the West Side. I have heard rumors of idiotic people who drove VW Bugs across the coves in winter when I was a child. I’ve never witnessed this personally. Even in the coves, I’m not sure I’d risk it. It does make for interesting photos though.
I’m hoping house business will be finished sometime this summer and I’ll have a fabulous new yard/garden to blog about and Pin away about.
The lake photo is from Old Hwy 5 at the bridge. The other I took of the creek in Linn Creek from a friend’s bridge.


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My slackeresque treatment of Dirt….

Belle's YardThose of you that actually read this stuff on a regular basis may have noticed there hasn’t been a new post in quite a while. Or maybe you’re as insanely busy as I am and you’re just waiting for fall TV to start back up so you can fall into the couch at night and sit in a zombie-like coma in front of your favorite shows. Whichever the case may be, I wanted to let readers know, I’m on an extended leave for a while, but not gone forever.
We are in the process of moving. I’ve been in our current house since March of 2001 and lived in the Lake of the Ozarks area pretty much my entire life. The furthest away were the couple years I lived in Richland, Mo and Stover, Mo- both are 1/2 hour’s drive or less to the Lake.
I’m still not going to be FAR away from Lake of the Ozarks. We’re going to be looking for something near the Jefferson City/Columbia Mo area. Even though that’s only an hour from Osage Beach at most, it’s still a big move for me. I spent a week or so freaking out about it, then I looked around at all the things that needed to be done before we sold our current house and realized I didn’t have time to freak out anymore- I had to get BUSY.

And I have been.Mexican Sunflower

My entire week and sometimes a large part of the weekend has been engulfed by demolition, drywall, construction, painting, sanding, scraping ceilings, etc. I haven’t mowed our grass in weeks, in fact- the only time I really manage to get any yard time at all is when I’m watering the garden or picking tomatoes and peppers. Nothing new is going in this fall, since I don’t plan on being her next year to take care of it. I’ll make time to dig up some of my favorite plants or those that have some sentimental attachment and clean things up so it all looks neat- that’s about the extent of my landscaping and garden plans until the move. Which means not much to write about on Dirt for a while.

I didn’t realize how many projects I had started and not finished until delving into this house, room by room, making sure everything was move-in ready from top to bottom. There are little things- like I started replacing the ugly gold tone doorknobs with brushed nickel and only about half of them are done. Then there are big things- I scraped, skim coated and painted the ceilings in rooms I had remodeled previously, but not throughout the entire house. Which meant, I still had the utility room, our bedroom and the kitchen/living room to scrape, coat and paint. I’m 2 for 3 already, but it’s been a HUGE undertaking. Add to this that I must spend at least some time with my kiddo and doing normal routine stuff like making sure we have at least 1 pair of clean underwear each and something besides condiments in the fridge to eat… I’m ridiculously busy right now.

SunflowersDirt will be back. I just need some time to get things fixed up here, take some pictures (Have you seen the photos realtors take of houses they sell??? They suck. It’s no wonder they sit on the market forever.) and get my move on. Hopefully when that’s all done, I’ll have a whole new yard to start projects in that I still won’t have finished 12 years later. ;)

These are a few shots of our current garden. I plant my veggies right in the raised bed next to the house and pond, mixed in with marigolds, climbing roses, butterfly bush, Mexican and regular sunflowers. The loads of pollinators that come to the Mexican sunflower and butterfly bush help the veggie plants produce far more fruit sometimes than we can eat. A setup I must remember and try to duplicate at our new home!

Have a great fall folks, I’ll be back as soon as possible.

-Belle


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Camping at Table Rock Lake

This 4th of July weekend we camped at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri.

I’m a native lake girl myself, having lived at Lake of the Ozarks my entire lifetime. I’ve watched our lake go through many changes over the years, some good and some not so great. In regards to water quality, I didn’t realize how MUCH our lake had changed until my recent visit to Table Rock. I’m sad to say there’s no comparison.

Table Rock is absolutely gorgeous. It is an Army Corps of Engineers Lake, which means it’s maintained very differently from our privately owned Lake of the Ozarks. The water is so clear in fact, that they scuba dive here; some claim you can see the bottom as far down as 40 feet. From my personal experience, the water clarity IS incredible. There’s limited building and docks along the shoreline. A two-layer rock shelf wrapped the shoreline around the entire campsite area. I was able to walk with our dog along that shelf around the entire cove, in calf-deep water. We stopped several times to sit on the shelf and cool off in the breaking waves. I was taking photos of the boats and bridge, but Olivia became something of a celebrity to passing wave runners and pontoons, they were stopping on the water to take pictures of her and wave at us while we walked. We checked out some stacked rocks along the shore and chased a few minnows.

Our campsite was only a few minutes’ drive to downtown Branson. The $16 sites had water available, you can also get them with electric and other amenities. We went to the nearby pavilion to charge batteries and cell phones when necessary. The toilets are unfortunately not plumbed, but for outdoor toilets, they were very well cleaned and maintained. There are shower rooms on site and a marina if you need to restock ice or pick up essentials. We didn’t rent a boat or do any diving, but there are plenty of rental options available if we’d been interested.

Great place to for camping and the water was amazing. I’d absolutely go for a return visit!

http://www.news-leader.com/article/20130501/LIFE06/305010138/table-rock-lake-clear-water

http://mostateparks.com/park/table-rock-state-park


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Camping at Fiery Fork

Fiery Fork Conservation Area

This weekend, I went on my first camping trip in probably 25+ years.
My brother in law, his wife and children are all heavily involved in Boy Scouts and are old pros at the camping scene; but due to some pretty rough experiences camping as a kid, my idea of camping since I’ve been an adult has been a stay at the Ramada Inn. I know this may seem odd, considering my affinity for dirt, rocks and growing things- but the thing is, I love to work with nature, I just don’t know if I love to SLEEP in it. However, my recent camping experience was no where near the nightmarish memories of my youth and I think I’m even willing to do it again!fiery fork 005

The Fiery Fork Conservation Area is just east of Climax Springs on North State Highway 7, if you blink at Granger Lane, you’ll miss the sign. Last summer, the fields below the campgrounds were planted with sunflowers that were higher than my head (doesn’t take too much, I’m only 5’5″). There are several creek areas; it is the Fiery Fork Creek that the park is named for, all winding together to empty into the little Niangua River. Camping at Fiery Fork was my idea. I had driven down there a couple times last summer and discovered it was a really pretty area, not too busy compared to other parks in the Lake Area and conveniently, only about 5 miles from our house. In other words, close enough to go home if I couldn’t commit to spending the night under the stars.

Last summer, at the peak of  the drought, the river was only thigh-deep and much calmer, the water clear enough to see the gravel fiery fork 008bottom. Someone has tied a rope swing to the trees across from the river access; a sandbar that is usually large enough to park a couple cars or launch a canoe from. When the water is in its normal, more tranquil state, the riverside is the perfect Country-Time Lemonade Spot. This weekend was the end of a  very rainy couple of weeks; the river was crazy-full and running very fast, it looked like there was a fair amount of storm debris in all that muddy water too, so we didn’t attempt to swim in it, but took the kids to the creek instead. They explored, saw minnows, held a tadpole, slid around on the moss-covered bridge and collected rocks.

At the campsite, we made Smores around the campfire, grilled hot dogs and breakfast burritos. The campsites are primitive, which means no electric hookups or potable water- but the sites are large and an outdoor toilet is available near each campsite grouping of 4-5 sites each near the river. There is accessible parking near the toilet area and a paved ramp to the wide gated doorway. No sink or running water, take wet wipes with you!fiery fork 009

We had an entire camp area to ourselves, due to the earlier rainy weather, but Saturday evening was clear, sunny and only upper 70’s. The campsites have a metal fire pit with a grate attachment over them for cooking; some of the campsites are right on the Little Niangua; we opted for the wooded area near the creek crossing, it turned out to be the perfect spot for my 4 year old and her cousins to play. The kids set up a badminton net at the adjacent campsite and played a few games before our evening meal.

fiery fork 012The Missouri Department of Conservation site mentions hiking trails from a quarter mile up to a mile and a quarter, marked in blue paint on the trees to find your way. Some of the trails intersect with state and county roads or private property. Hiking wasn’t high on the list of things to do for my camp-mates or the kids, so I just took a few short walks near the campsite and by the Fiery Fork Creek; there is some really gorgeous scenery to look at.

Overall, it was not a bad camping experience. I did discover that a sleeping bag would be a wise purchase before spending a night outside again, I forget that temps in the upper 50’s are REALLY cold if you don’t have a house to protect you! Bug repellent comes in very handy here as we found many, many ticks. I managed to avoid being bit; just wear light colored clothing so they are easy to spot, that way you can remove them before they bite. Missouri woods are full of deer and other wildlife that ticks like to munch on; with all the rain this year, they are especially prolific.fiery fork 032

Bring some firewood with you if you want a fire for warmth, or charcoal for cooking if you don’t have a propane camp stove. The park service makes brochures available at the campsites with rules and regulations of the area. They request that visitors do not cut trees or limbs to get fire wood. We brought along enough for ourselves plus the next 4 or 5 visitors and there was some wood at our site already where the previous occupants had left some as well. So… if you forget your wood, you might check neighboring campsites.fiery fork 013

I heard whippoorwills on and off all night, an owl or two and one lonely coyote howling. Fiery Fork Creek was home to frogs, tadpoles, tiny minnows, crawdads and water snails. It  flows over the road and drops off the other side in a rocky waterfall ending in a small deep pool below before continuing on towards the Little Niangua. Most parts of the creek I was able to walk in Wellies that were just under knee-high without them taking on water.

There was thick forest all around us, but fields across the road and the creek running along and behind the camping area. The Conservation department keeps the grass mowed in and around the campsites. I may have to return to the creek later this summer and do a walk-through to explore more. I love following and exploring creeks in summer, but there are increasingly fewer places to do this around the Lake without encroaching on private property.fiery fork 022

I think what I liked best about Fiery Fork  is that it’s enough removed from the Osage Beach tourist mecca to offer a little quiet exploration, but close enough that it’s convenient to drive to. You can truly immerse yourself in nature here without loud boat engines or wave runners to interrupt the peace and quiet. There aren’t any shops or billboards, there are views of filtered light through tall trees, clear water and plenty of woods and fields to enjoy. :)

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