September 18, 2009
East of the Mississippi is a new land altogether, that large body of water divides the continent in a way I can only describe through the biological diversity I was blessed to observe. The water content in the air and soil is much greater, the rains continue year round, and the noises of the night seem tropical. We travelled to the what is considered the Ozark foothills, part prairie, and part rolling hills. The berries were plump, and dripping from their branches.
Pokeberry is a species I have become very fond of. This rasberry red tone was quite a surprise. Thanks to Carol Leigh, and her dye studio at Hillcreek, these berry colors are both light and color fast. I also learned the spring shoots were as tender as asparagus, one woman at the workshop mentioned how much she liked eating the greens steamed.
I could imagine the first peoples in these prairie fields, harvesting seeds, roots, and greens. It was the first time I’d had the opportunity to walk through grasses and wildflowers as tall as myself. Just around the corner from the dye studio, we collected the most abundant species- goldenrod, ironweed, and biden
With very few flowers, the most beautiful orange emerged from the dye vat.
Just outside the field, on a pebble lane, handcrafted pruning sheers, and a bouquet of ironweed
Ironweed- its purple blossoms are a signature of the prairie meadow. Somehow this native has ended up in several ‘weed field guides’. I always find it amusing how a native species, that has been on the continent longer than ourselves, becomes a ‘weed’. I like these hardy self-sowing species, and appreciate the color they bring to the edge of the roads, and the ditches, where other species will not grow.