Category Archives: nature retreat

The Natural World Article By Earthyman From Ion Exchange, Inc.

The natural world, as recognized over and over again can be our best teacher. The struggles and stresses that we perceive in our daily lives can get to be such a drain on us. When this happens, our lives are no longer in cadence or harmony with others and the natural world. We start to feel distressed and lost while even armed with our fine educations, years of therapy, self-awareness and physical fitness. Where do we turn? There seems to be no answer and no one to help us.

I remember when I was very young and my parents used to argue with each other, I would get very upset and walk out of the house. There was an old red oak stump in our timber. I would just sit there, staring at the ground and trees around me. It was my escape and my haven from stress and turmoil. This little wood lot that had been so mistreated and now barely remained had become my friend and companion. Having been stripped of all valuable timber long ago, then grazed, then abandoned, now recovering but extremely scarred, the landscape did not complain but only saw new opportunity for change and a new life. The stripping of its timber was not harbored in a memory bank filled with judgments of greed or bad behavior. No one was being held responsible for the condition of this little parcel. Out of what looked like total defilement and desolation came a new beginning and a new life for this old, old piece of ground.

There were Yellow Warblers, Myrtle Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Ruby Crown Kinglets, and Purple Finches, over 100 species of beautiful birds in this small haven along with squirrels, rabbits and copperheads. It was amazing that this land, so poor, could house and care for such a diversity of life. Underneath the shallow leaves and humus of the oaks and hickories, it was only 2″ to shale rock. Erosion had not even allowed a new soil to stay in place. Now a new soil was starting to form. The oaks grew ever so slowly, but they grew. Now, down the slope, a small clearing, a little knoll occupied by Andropogon virginicus, or Broom Sedge as we called it, was dotted with Eastern Red Cedars. From here, I could lie down in the grass and look to the south and east to see a whole horizon bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Only 12 miles away, I could see Big Bald Mountain on the North Carolina line marked by the Appalachian Trail. It was a beautiful wilderness within site of this abandoned and forgotten vestige that was once a link and connection to these mighty mountains. Like a child cast out into a desert of chaos and severed from its mother, this little wood lot had become an island. My education and awareness might not have been that well established at the age of nine but my feelings were in tact and I knew this was a place where I could go and start to heal and find comfort. I didn’t have to worry about conflict here. I was accepted and I fit in with the rest. I became part of that landscape and it is still within me. I have learned from the great spirit of the natural world. Every change is an opportunity for a new beginning. Nature does not hear or respond to shame, blame, doubt, and guilt nor does she harbor regrets or grudges. She takes what she has and moves on to constantly create more beauty in the world.

I think it’s time to move on and create some beauty in our world. Won’t you join the natural world

Earthyman

http://ionxchange.com/

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Kayaking on The Yellow River

 Whoever thought that people would be attracted to Northeast Iowa just to go kayaking.   Every year a group of people, sometimes up to 20 of them flock to Northeast Iowa’s Yellow River.  Iowa, known for cornfields is seldom thought of as a great place to kayak.  Low and behold in a remote region of Iowa that is full of limestone bluffs, valleys, trees and scenery beyond belief with eagles and vultures flying overhead, there is a clear stream with rainbow and brown trout and smallmouth bass. The Yellow River has the steepest vertical elevation fall of any river in Iowa.

Your launch may be at a bridge called 16, a name that was given to a small community that existed there in the late 1800’s.  Spend four hours on the Yellow River, stopping to fish or have a shore lunch with friends on a hot July day and you would swear that you were in Colorado or somewhere out west having the time of your life.  There are beautiful vertical walls lush with liverworts and often the more observing kayakers will stop by the walls and pet the Lichens or Liverworts as they are known because they have a feel that is so special and unforgettable.  Takeout may be at Ion, a ghost town now with nothing left.  A huge flood destroyed the whole town of 149 people back in 1916.  There was a hotel, a hardware store, a sawmill and a gristmill.  An old timer, Bill Aard, saw his best friend cut in half at the sawmill.  Bill never traveled more than 20 miles out of the valley during his whole life.  He died at 103 years of age.

There now exists just downstream from Ion a well known native seed and plant nursery and The Natural Gait.  Many people stay at The Natural Gait in one of their exquisite log cabins for their venture down the Yellow River.

Whether you go to kayak or scenery or just to relax, the Yellow River is a place to remember.

By Howard Bright

www.ionxchange.com

www.thenaturalgait.com

Liatris: Blazing Star of Prairie and Garden

Liatris is a tough and undemanding prairie plant, tolerant of poor soil and less-than-ideal moisture situations. It’s also a perennial border standout and florist’s staple. The long-lasting blooms of this summer- and fall-blooming American native attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. This is one wildflower that stands out wherever it’s planted, be it roadside, naturalized area or formal garden.

Identification
Some 30 species of liatris are native to nearly every state east of the Rocky Mountains as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. A number of the species and several cultivars are considered worthy of the ornamental garden. Early American settlers called this member of the Aster family “blazing star” or “gayfeather” because of its bright bottle brush-like flowers. Another pioneer name, “colic root,” referred to its medicinal use as an intestinal antispasmodic. Some types of liatris were known as “devil’s bite” or “button snakeroot” because of their reputation as a remedy for snakebite, particularly from rattlesnakes.

Image
Monarch on L. aspera

The foliage of liatris is spiky and grass-like, with leaves that are larger at the base of the plant and become smaller at the top.  In mid- to late summer, the stems produce many tiny, star-like florets. Unlike most other spike-flowered plants, liatris (with the exception of L. aspera) opens from the top of the spike downward, rather than from the bottom up. Depending on the variety, the spikes’ blossoms may be purple, pinkish-purple or white, and grow from 1 to 5 feet high. In the fall, liatris foliage turns an attractive shade of bronze, and the dried stalks serve as swaying perches for birds attracted to the seedheads.

Culture
Liatris plants prefer full sun but will accept some degree of shade. They are tolerant of a wide range of soils, but most require a well-drained situation. Plant in either early spring or in late summer or early autumn, spacing the plants about 1 foot apart. Watering regularly during its first year helps liatris become established, after which it becomes fairly drought-tolerant. Avoid overwatering, because it can cause plants to rot, and don’t overfertilize, because it can cause the flower stalks to flop. 

Depending on the species, liatris may emerge from a corm, rhizome or elongated root. Once liatris matures, you can propagate it by dividing large clumps in the spring, just as the leaves are emerging. Use a knife or sharp spade to separate the corms or roots.

Varieties
Many kinds of liatris are readily available from nurseries and garden centers. Even small plants often bloom the first year they are planted, and they become more impressive every year. Species liatris are also readily grown from seed. Some varieties to look for include:

Image L. scariosa (Eastern blazing star, New England blazing star, tall gayfeather) typically grows from 2 to 4 feet. If cultivated in a more fertile setting, it may require staking. The lavender, rose or white flowers resemble buttons, with individual flower heads growing from short stalks coming off the stem.
Image L. aspera (rough blazing star) features pink flowers on 1- to 3-foot spikes, blooming from August through October. Hardy to zone 4, this liatris prefers dry to moderately moist soil, and can be found growing in sandy fields and dunes.
Image L. pycnostachya (prairie blazing star, Kansas gayfeather, cattail gayfeather or button snakeroot) is hardy to zone 3 and prefers moist or even wet sites. The flowers may be purple, rose-purple or white, and appear on 2- to 5-foot spikes between July and September.
Image L. ligulistylis (meadow blazing star, round-headed blazing star, showy blazing star) prefers moderate moisture, and can be found growing in meadows, prairies and along the banks of streams. Pink to purple, 3- to 5-foot flower spikes appear in August and September. This liatris is particularly attractive to butterflies and is hardy to zone 4.
Image L. punctata (dotted blazing star or spotted gayfeather) is a drought-tolerant native of the Great Plains. Its long tap root makes it useful for xeriscaping. Pink flowers appear on 1- to 2-foot spikes in July through September. L. punctata is hardy in zones 4 through 8.
Image L. spicata (dense blazing star or spike gayfeather), hardy to zone 3, likes moisture and is found in marshes and meadows. Its rose-purple flower spikes reach 1 1/2 to 5 feet in August and September. Among the hybridized forms of L. spicata are ‘Alba’, with pure white flowers and ‘Floristan Violet’ with strong, bright violet stems. ‘Kobold’ is a small, compact plant, reaching only 18 to 24 inches high, with deep purple blooms.

Garden Uses
Liatris is an obvious choice for providing color to a naturalized planting, where it pairs well with prairie grasses, echinacea and coneflower. It’s also right at home in more formal settings, where the tall stalks provide punctuation and contrast to mound-shaped perennials. The warm rosy-purple blooms of liatris are a good foil for yellow flowers such as goldenrod, coreopsis and later-blooming golden daylilies, as well as silver-leaved plants like lamb’s ears and wormwood. Although the spikes look handsome planted in large groups or drifts, they also work well planted here and there as single accents. Shorter cultivars are best appreciated near the front of the border. Taller varieties needn’t be relegated to the rear of the garden — they make great “see-through” perennials, adding texture and variety to the border when you place them in front of shorter plants. 

Liatris and Critters
Image
In my research about liatris, I learned that this plant is beneficial to the diet of deer and antelope, and can be used as food for grazing livestock such as sheep. Although I have no livestock, my urban garden is home to herds of rabbits and chipmunks. Unfortunately, these critters do more than just nibble foliage — once they bite through a tall stalk, you can say goodbye to its flowers for the season. After bunnies decimated most of my magnificent 5-foot-tall white L. pycnostachya, I salvaged the remaining two stalks by wrapping them in plastic netting (the kind that oranges come in) up to about 12 inches — not pretty to look at, but preferable to gnawed stumps.

Cutting and Drying
Floral arrangers favor tall stems of liatris for adding a colorful vertical element to their designs. You can also use liatris in dried arrangements. Whether you’re harvesting the flowers for fresh or dried use, cut the stalks when the flowers are only one-half to two-thirds open. Liatris is easy to preserve by hanging the stalks upside down and allowing them to air dry for several weeks. Good air circulation is important as the flowers dry, otherwise they are apt to become moldy. Drying liatris in a dessicant such as sand or silica gel may help preserve more of the flower’s bright color.


Photo credits:
thumbnail by wallgrom
butterfly on L. aspera by mccormaka
L. spicata by Sentrawoods
DG Member photos:
L. scariosa by poppysue
L. aspera by sittingbones
L. pycnostachya by ADKSpirit
L. ligulistylis by Moby
L. punctata by Joy

L. spicata by Floridian

Article Taken from DavesGarden Website

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Wild Geranium – Geranium maculatum Harvest at Ion Exchange, Inc.

Earthyman harvests Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) for Ion Exchange, native prairie seed and plant nursery in NE Iowa.

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Ion Exchange, Inc.

1878 Old Mission Dr.

Harpers Ferry, IA 52146-7533

Earthyman Walks the Woodland Edge at Ion Exchange, Inc.

Earthyman walks the Woodland Edge at Ion Exchange, native seed and plant nursery in NE Iowa http://www.ionxchange.com What beautiful wildflowers can you add to your woodland edge?

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Planting Butterfly Milkweed Plugs at Ion Exchange

Earthyman supervises planting Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) plugs at Ion Exchange, Inc, native seed and plant nursery in NE Iowa.

To purchase Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) Click on Our Link Below

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Earthyman Expresses Gratitude For This Beautiful July Day on The Yellow River Valley in NE Iowa

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