Friday, November 11, 2011

Frostweed sculpts 11/11/11

These are the "flowers" delivered to my part of the Ozarks this morning, to honor our military veterans!! Even the description on one of the websites I used to research the plant ( ) brought the sight of elderly veterans to mind: It said, "Although the plant has gone to seed and looks dead, at the first hard freeze of the season, it bursts forth to produce something remarkable!" Likewise, you can be sure that our former military personnel still have what it takes to produce something remarkable!

In Frostweed, this "botanical phenomena" is brought about, because when that first hard freeze happens, the sap in the plant freezes, splits open the stem, and forms these "frost-flowers".

The real "scientific name" for this plant is Verbesina virginica, but not surprisingly, it has lots of nicknames. Besides Frostweed, it is sometimes called Iceplant, Iceweed, Indian tobacco, Squawweed, Crownbeard, and (I love this one!) Rabbit Butter! The plant is most often seen at the edges of woodlands, where it can form sizable colonies with its spreading rhizomes.

Under the right temperature and atmospheric conditions, the stems exude water that freezes into fascinating shapes. The ice crystals formed on the stems have been given many names---ice ribbons, ice flowers, ice fringes, ice filaments, frost beards, and frost ribbons---to name just a few. When I was doing my Bible study this morning, I read a verse that seemed to describe this remarkable process perfectly: "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations." Psalm 104:24 (The Message)

The website says the plant is best suited as a transitional plant between manicured and wild areas. That is exactly where I routinely see it grow---where my front yard stops, and the woodland begins, as shown in this photo. That website also shows what the plant looks like in the summertime, when it is blooming with the more traditional definition of a "flower".

I titled this post "Frostweed sculpts 11/11/11" because when I first looked out the window to see it this morning, the radio was announcing that today is 11/11/11, and is the day set aside to honor our veterans. My mind's eye saw "elevens" in those vertical strips of white! I am glad I did not wait until 11:11 am to photograph them, however, because by that time they had all melted! No matter WHERE we look today, we can see the beauty of God's creation, and give thanks to the veterans who have served our country so that we can preserve that beauty! Miles of 11/11/11 smiles! Tricia

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Sunday, November 6, 2011


Arkansas has three natural bridges, and this is a photo I took yesterday of the one located in the Ozark National Forest day use area in southern Newton County, Arkansas, near the town of Deer. It is known as the Alum Cove Natural Area. This photo shows the top of the span, which averages about twenty feet wide.

Attractive protective railings have been built on each side of the span, because of the long drop-off to the forest floor beneath the natural bridge.

This photo was taken from underneath the bridge, looking up towards the sky. The bridge is about 130 feet long. Early loggers in Newton County reportedly used the span with their wagons and teams of mules, to carry their cargo out of the narrow valley, where the bridge is located.

The area is no longer used for logging, so hikers can walk the short quarter mile of trail down to walk across the bridge, as well as, look underneath the bridge. The walk is rated as moderate, because the hill is steep; however, there are several places where benches have been placed to stop and rest. These two hikers said they have been coming to Alum Cove for years, and enjoy seeing the way it looks different during each of the four seasons we enjoy in the Ozarks.

The purpose of my visit yesterday was to be part of the Trail Patrol crew from the North Central chapter of the Arkansas Master Naturalists ( ), who were working as volunteers to do some repair work along the trail. These guys are working at replacing a foot bridge that had been washed out by spring floods in the valley. As I thought about the bridge work that they were doing, it occurred to me that they were making a "man-made" bridge. Earlier along the trail, I had crossed the "natural" bridge. Likewise, the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is a "supernatural" bridge to connect the human race to our Heavenly Father: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' " (John 14:6 NIV)Just as I am thankful to get to use the natural bridge at Alum Cove, and the man-made bridge over the creek, I am MOST thankful for the SUPERnatural bridge that Jesus provided when he died on the cross to take the penalty for my sins!

In this photo, one of our members is using a weed-eater to keep tall weeds from obstructing the steps. Continuing the "life trail" analogy between the work that the trail patrol does, to the work I am supposed to do , my job is to keep the "life trail" clear of obstacles so that others can continue on the trail that leads to the decision to become a Christ-follower!

These trail patrol workers are making the steep trail easier to navigate to breaking it up into manageable steps. Likewise, we are called as Christians to recognize the step-wise process that each believer must go through to grow in their faith. The trail to spiritual maturity is a step by step process.

These ladies were part of the "Poison Ivy Patrol". Their mission was to identify the obnoxious plant, and stop its growth. A key to stopping the growth of poison ivy is being able to recognize it in its many forms. Likewise, the best way to keep poisonous "plants" from overtaking our trail in life, is to study God's word, so that we will be able to identify the poisonous "plants" from the non-poisonous "plants".

Regardless of whether you are talking about the Arkansas Master Naturalists trail patrol, or the "trail patrol" we as Christians should be a part of, you need to be well-nourished! The husband-wife team shown in this photo, cooked up some delicious vegetable-beef stew and fruit cobblers in a Dutch ovens during the morning part of the work day, in anticipation of some hungry workers taking a lunch break between their morning and afternoon work sessions.

Our human bodies have to be well-nourished to keep their strength up, and everyone who participated yesterday can attest to the fact that we were very well fed----and well-fed in a very comfortable, congenial atmosphere! The nice pavilion has a concrete floor, metal picnic tables, food preparation counters, water, electricity, and grills. Groups can reserve it in advance through the forest service headquarters ( ).

In addition, picnic tables (equipped with fire grates) are located at the trail head and are surrounded by beautiful hardwood trees. The timber is a mixture of oaks, gum, and beech trees. The colors were absolutely gorgeous on the beautiful fall day that our group visited. A wheel-chair accessible restroom is adjacent to the picnic area.

There are other natural features, in addition to the bridge, along the 1.1 mile trail. A rugged bluff line on the back side of the trail has caves and overhangs that youngsters especially enjoy exploring. The young folks in this photo represent the reason our Master Naturalist group volunteers for this trail work activity: We all want to preserve our state's natural wonders for future generations to enjoy!

I called this post "Alum Expedition" because the early part of my day started out with a delicious meal, because I was an "alum" of the University of Arkansas; my college ( ) was having a special Homecoming Breakfast for us in Fayetteville. Then I left Fayetteville, in Washington County, and followed Highway 16 (shown in this photo) to the second part of my expedition---"alum" cove trail clean up! Although the Newton County location probably got its name from the mineral known as "alum" that it contained, it still seemed quite a coincidence that both "alum" activities fell on the same day!! Now, I am urging YOU to become an "alum" of "Alum Cove", by visiting it at your earliest convenience!! Miles of smiles! Tricia

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