Outdoor Learning at the Ozark Natural Science Center

*this is a sponsored post

In a traditional school, different subjects require different teaching methods.  I remember learning math with a big chalkboard and pencils with good erasers.  English and reading were done in quiet classrooms or libraries and science was hands-on in a lab permanently encapsulated in its own unique smell.

Now, imagine yourself doing classwork in a 500-acre forest surrounded by flowers, trees, and birds.   Feeling the breeze on your face and the sun on your skin.  Smelling the damp earth of the forest floor.  Catching a glimpse of something scurrying about out of the corner of your eye.  Who wouldn’t want to learn like that?

The trails at the Ozark Natural Science Center provide beauty and nature at its best. See all their educational programs at onsc.us

Ozark Natural Science Center (ONSC) in Huntsville offers a unique way of bringing science and nature together in an environment conducive to learning.  Their mission is to develop an understanding and appreciation of our natural state by providing educational programs that promote stewardship and conservation of the Ozark ecosystems.

I arrived as a group of fifth-graders were preparing for a hike on one of the many trails.  Students are provided backpacks, water, and field journals and are encouraged to study the diversity of their surroundings.  Guided by a resident teacher-naturalist, we trekked through the woods stopping along the way to talk about trees, rocks, vegetation, and wildflowers.


The scenic vista at Wishing Rock overlook provided a nice spot to rest, record notes, or relax and admire the view.


The facility also offers indoor classrooms to study specimens collected


or outdoor facilities for informal studies or gatherings.


Huntsville fifth-grade science teacher, Jennifer Dunn, looks forward to bringing her students to ONSC.  She states, “I am committed to teaching the kids to take care of the planet for kids today and generations to come.  A big portion of our Earth Systems unit is learning how everyone can protect Earth’s natural resources.  I believe helping my students nurture a love of the environment will not only make a difference in their lives, but show them how they can influence others to also take care of resources and our planet.  In my opinion, it is the best Science educational field experience that I have found in my entire 20 years of teaching.”


Since 1990, ONSC has been reaching out to kids of all ages about environmental education.  Matthew Miller, Executive Director of ONSC, estimates during this time around 60,000 students have participated in the variety of programs the center has to offer.  “We want everyone to know we are here and to come and visit us,” he says.  He goes on to explain, “One of the great benefits of the program is the classes offered here meet state standards and, next school year (2017-18), teachers will be able to earn continuing education hours.”

Becky Olthof, Program Manager for ONSC, is also excited about the Adult Field School Programs.  Best described as “nature classes for grown-ups,” Olthof explains these classes range from one to three-day workshops.  Upcoming classes include nature, history, art, and photography taught by skilled instructors and experts in their respective fields.


ONSC is not just for education, though.  The three lodges on the property can be rented for meetings, conferences, weddings, and retreats.  Each event can be custom designed for your group and can include meals, hikes, and extended stays.


For more information about the Ozark Natural Science Center and the programs they offer, visit their website at onsc.us or call 479-202-8340.





Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Birds, Bugs, Education, Family, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring Has Sprung

Spring was a little early this year and it seems like every time I walked through the garden I would find something else blooming.

My sea of creeping phlox and creeping jenny is probably my favorite early spring combination.

Creeping phlox is one of the earliest blooming perennials in my garden. https://theblondegardener.com/2017/04/23/spring-has-sprung/

creeping phlox

Soloman’s Seal (Polygonatum) is an early bloomer for the shade garden.  A perennial in zones 3-9, it can grow up to two feet tall.  Tiny, delicate white flowers suspend from the stem and sometimes berries will form but I’ve not seen it yet with this variety.

Soloman's Seal

Soloman’s Seal

The dark foliage of Heuchera or Coral Bells is a nice contrast against the phlox.  In late spring/ early summer, it will shoot up white-ish flowers on long stalks.   Heuchera likes part shade and is a perennial in zones 4-9.



Bluebells or Wood Hyacinths, are also shade-loving, spring-blooming perennials. Planted in the fall for spring blooms, these bulbs will naturalize or spread throughout the garden when provided with good drainage and neglect (one of my favorite characteristics!)



Epimedium or Bishop’s hat is a native groundcover in my shade garden.  The tiny, yellow flowers will bloom for a short period of time and spread up to three feet.  I’ve had this growing next to my hydrangeas for several years and it’s only about two feet wide.  About the time it dies back, the hydrangeas are starting their spectacular show.

Native groundcover epimedium provides early spring color

Native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) has spread quickly through the shade garden.  I started these flowers from seed a few years ago and I’m happy they are happy.  The red flowers attract the first hummingbirds of the season.  Seed collection is easy and, even though they will self-seed, I like to help by spreading them around the garden.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, “You just can’t have too many columbine flowers.”

Native Coumbine

Native Columbine

Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii) is one of my all-time favorite shrubs.  It is just now starting to bloom.  I’ve talked about it here,  here, here, and here.  It’s pretty in the spring, summer and fall.   I kinda love it.

Arkansas Blue Star

Arkansas Blue Star

This is the second year for my Buckeye tree (Aesculus Pavia) that I started from a buckeye seed.  It’s a small tree so it needs some room.  I will probably have to relocate it since it’s doing so well.  The most popular Ozark folklore says carrying a buckeye in your pocket is good luck.  Another popular saying is, “You’ll never find a dead man with a buckeye in his pocket”. Others claim it helps keep rheumatism, hemorrhoids, migraines and other ailments away.  That’s one powerful seed.

Buckeye tree started from seed

Buckeye tree

By now you know I like to add other objects throughout the garden.  My spider and garden fairy came out of hibernation to watch over the phlox.

Spider Garden Art

SEyes in the gardenpider Garden Art


Garden fairy face peeking through the creeping phlox




And even Daisy, in her grumpiest of moods, likes to keep tabs on all of us.

IMG_2109What are you seeing in your garden?


sunflower emoji








Posted in Arkansas, Arkansas blogger, Family, Farm life, Flowers, Garden, Home, Native Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Time To Tidy Up

This time of year starts a frenzy of garden to-do lists.  Seed packets are organized, new seed varieties are studied, and plans are being made for the gardens.  Not much can be planted outside now, but the greenhouse space is already filling up.

For my garden, ornamental grasses, climbing roses, and hydrangeas can be cut back in preparation for spring.  Timing for this is usually late winter but it seems late winter came in January this year.

My daffodils were in full bloom by the third week of February and have survived a couple of hard freezes.  You have to be a tough plant to live in my garden and these have garnered much respect this year.


Ornamental grasses can be cut back to make room for spring growth.  In this case, I found blooming daffodils.


Cutting back hydrangeas depend on the type you have.  Some hydrangeas bloom on new wood and some on old wood.  My ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea blooms on new wood, so I can cut them back and get a fresh flush of growth in spring and abundant flowers in the summer.


If your hydrangea blooms on old wood, cutting the plant down will not give you any blooms for the year and that’s just tragic.  In my opinion, summertime shade gardens are not complete without the spectacular blooms of a hydrangea.  If you are unsure what type you have, just leave it alone for a season and it will show you.


If you don’t have time to cut back your new wood bloomers,  don’t worry, they will still bloom.  I just don’t like looking at naked branches mixed in with blooms.  Not that you can really see them but, by March, my pruning disorder has kicked in and makes me a crazy, twig-trimming women.  From now until fall, pruners will be part of my wardrobe, snug in my back pocket, ready to be whipped out at a moments notice.

Sometimes, as I’m trimming up plants, I find surprises.


These are praying mantis egg sacs.  They are so tightly woven, they are almost impossible to penetrate.  This particular shrub had five on it.  Considering each case holds approximately 300 babies means I will have an army of bug eaters working for me this summer.  Unfortunately, praying mantis cannot distinguish good bugs from bad bugs.  I have seen them pounce on a grasshopper, munch on a spider and, sadly, eat a butterfly.  I read they will also eat bees, mice and small frogs.   I can only hope they develop a taste for moles because, looking at all the tunnels I have in my yard, I must have hundreds.

What’s happening in your garden?


sunflower emoji

I am linking this post to the Chicken Chick Blog Hop

Posted in Arkansas, Bugs, Flowers, Garden, Home, Pruning | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

When I Can’t Garden, I Cook

Dreary days in the winter don’t work for me.  I can tolerate the cold if the sun is shining, but when it’s not, it can be so depressing.  Usually when this happens, I head to the kitchen and cook.  It’s still January though and everyone is still trying to get their holiday indulgences corrected so, therefore, I have been banned from making my signature dessert.


I started making cookies when I was a little girl and like to feel I have become an accomplished cookie maker (if there is such a thing.)   So, when our Master Gardener group put out a call needing cookies for their upcoming training, I jumped on it.

After the meeting, I got a text saying several people wanted the recipe, so I thought the best way to share is to put it here.  I’m going to add a couple of more recipes as well.  Hope you don’t mind.

Making cookies is not hard and my grandkids love to help me when they are here.  But, there is a science to cooking and that’s why recipes have specific measurements.  I know some people do a pinch of this or that, but that never worked well for me. I like to follow directions.

We like our cookies soft and chewy so I always use a good quality, unsalted butter.  I get mine from the Amish store in my town.  It comes in a round, wheel shape, not sticks, so it has to be softened and then measured.  There are many reasons why you use unsalted vs. salted that I won’t go in to, but feel free to research the topic if you like.  I also make my own vanilla, which is super easy, and has a more vanilla-y taste to it.  You can find out how I made my own here and here.  If you don’t want to do that, then be sure and buy pure vanilla extract and not imitation.  It’s a bit more pricey, but worth it.

Sorry, I don’t have many pictures, I never thought about taking them while I was cooking.

I feel this first recipe needs a disclaimer.  IT IS PURE SUGAR and I am not responsible for any cavities you may incur during the eating of this cookie.  Please brush and floss and see your dentist and hygienist every six months.  Consider yourself warned and eat at your own risk.

2-1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans
2-1/2 cups grated coconut

1. Combine pecans, coconut, and vanilla and set aside.
2. Mix sugar, evaporated milk, corn syrup, and butter in a
large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 3 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add pecans, coconut, and vanilla.
4. Stir for about 4 minutes.
5. Take a spoonful of batter and place on wax paper. Let sit until hardened.

The next recipe calls for zucchini and is a different way to use the extra we always seem to have during garden season.  It also calls for granola cereal, but I have always made these with homemade granola so I will include that recipe as well.

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 Tbs. grated orange peel OR 2 Tbs. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. granola cereal (or homemade granola*)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 c. shredded zucchini
1 pkg. (10-12 oz.) semisweet chocolate or butterscotch chips (I leave
this out most of the time and like them better but that is a personal

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg, orange peel
(or juice), and vanilla. Combine flour, granola, baking soda and salt.
Add to creamed mixture alternately with zucchini. The batter will be very stiff.  Stir in chips.
Drop by tablespoons 2 in. apart on baking sheets lined with
parchment paper. Bake at 350 for 8-10 min. or until lightly browned.
Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes approx. 6 dozen.


4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
2 c. coarsely chopped nuts
Mix together in a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt 1/2 c. butter then add
3/4 c. honey
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
Bring to a boil and boil for 1 min.

Pour over the oat mixture and stir until well blended.
Spread on lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 20 min. stirring every 5 min.
Cool and store in an airtight container.
For a different twist on granola see my Pumpkin Honey Granola recipe here.







Posted in Arkansas blogger, Cooking, Family, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Pinterest Fails

Whenever I comment on a great food I have eaten or complement a cool project someone has done, it’s usually followed by the phrase, “I got it off Pinterest”.

Pinterest is a great source for ideas and when my internal alarm clock goes off extra early, I find myself perusing the endless pictures of recipes and decorating ideas.  Through these sessions, I have created 59 boards of things I like and would like to do.

Many of our lake house ideas have come from Pinterest.  The corrugated metal shower and ceiling Allen and his brother constructed is one of my favorites.

lake house master bathroom lake house master bedroom

Along with the light fixture my dad made from a funnel.

lake house master bathroom

You can find ideas and tutorials on just about anything crafty, so when I found some ideas for garden décor, I was inspired to try a few.

Most of my projects turn out fine.  I like to incorporate simple accents throughout the garden to compliment the flowers which I see as the main focal point.

One project I used an old bed frame to border the back of my ornamental grasses.  flower bed with bed rail ornamental grass

It’s been painted a variety of colors over the years and was a super easy project.

This summer, on Pinterest, I saw where someone had made a flower from a kitchen whisk.

Looked easy enough.


from Pinterest

I was picturing in my mind what a whimsical accent this would be in a container planting.  So, I jumped in my car and headed straight for the dollar store.  I believe the price was $.97 so I bought one.


That gave me only one chance to make this work.  What they don’t tell you is how soft and bendable the wire is on these things.  Yet, once it’s bent, it is extremely hard to manipulate into another shape.

I should’ve bought two.


not bad, just sad

Overall, it wasn’t terrible.  Realistically though, it looked like a toddler had created it.  I still stuck it in a basket of dried hydrangea blooms and called it good.

Another project came to me as I was cleaning out the barn and found quite a bit of tie wire.  Tie wire is soft, easily cut, and used as a fastener.  I always keep some handy in case my chicken wire fences need to be reinforced.

I remember seeing another  Pinterest project that involved tie wire and a blow up beach ball.  You simply blow up a beach ball and wrap tie wire around the ball.  When you get your desired look, let the air out of the ball and voila, instant outdoor decor.

In my mind, I envisioned these balls decorated with solar lights hanging from the trees or sitting in my flower beds emitting a casual, relaxed glow.  It would be amazingly cute and talked about for decades.

Since it was summer, I just happen to have a beach ball handy and I quickly blew it up and began to work.  I could not get the beach ball nice and full to save my life.  I tried and tried to blow it up more but every time I tried to push the little plug back into the ball, more air would come out.  One step forward, two steps back kind of thing.

Maybe it was the tie wire.   The directions called for a specific gauge of wire but my original packaging was long gone.  The wire I had was very bendable and I could tell right away  this project was going south on a fast moving bus.

Optimistically, I continued.  Maybe it was one of those projects that would miraculously be perfect when I removed the beach ball.  As I carefully wrapped the wire around the not so full beach ball, I could tell this was not going to be the case.  My frustration increased as each and every wire wrap around the ball took on a hideous, distorted shape.

Realization set in and I knew in my heart this project was not going to turn out as I had expected.  So, with heavy heart, I let the air out of the beach ball to face the cold, hard truth.

It was then, that my frustration turned to laughter.  I laughed and laughed.  I walked away and when I returned, I laughed even more.  Never had a project turned out so bad and made me laugh so hard.


It made me think of the Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other”

As bad as it was, I couldn’t make myself throw it out.

I decided to keep it in the barn, on the bench, so I can see it when I first walk in.

And every time, even months later,  it makes me laugh.  I’m also sure it will be talked about for decades-just not in the original way I had imagined.

Although some people (ok most) will see this as a Pinterest failure, I see it as a reminder to not take myself so seriously.  Don’t get me wrong, my pitiful garden globe will never see the outside of the barn.  It will, however, make me smile every time I see it.

And, for me, that is not a failure.

Happy Holidays!


I’m linking this post with The Chicken Chick Blog Hop



Posted in Arkansas blogger, crafts, do it yourself, Family, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Why Americans Should Be More Like Bees

I am a simple person, I am not a political person.  I never felt I was knowledgeable enough to debate any issues and I, for one, am glad the election is over. No one knows what is in store for our country but, for better or worse, the American people voted in a new president.  Tuesday, I cast my vote and now I am ready to move forward. One of our favorite sayings to our kids/grandkids is:  You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.   Simple concept to understand and for some reason seems appropriate for this election.

As I was looking in on my bees yesterday,  I couldn’t help think how similar the election process is to the dynamics of a beehive.


In the beehive, the queen bee is similar to a president.  She is the most important bee in a hive of many workers.  When the queen begins to decline, the workers of the hive instinctively begin the process of replacing her.  They work together to select the best eggs and feed and nurse those eggs until they are ready to emerge as queen. The first queen to emerge kills her competition (this is where we differ, thankfully).

bees 3/12/15

With the new queen victorious, the old queen and new queen go to battle.  The strongest queen wins and the hive accepts this outcome and continues to work together to make a stronger hive.

They realize that even though they may have a new leader, the common goal has not changed in the hive.


Agree or disagree with the election results, my only advice is to think like a bee.

Accept the outcome, work together, and be a productive citizen for this great country.

For my simple mind, this concept just makes good sense.

God Bless America and to all of our military, past and present, Happy Veterans Day.  Our country is great because of you.



Posted in Arkansas, Bees, Family, Garden, Home | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Crunchy, Pumpkin-y Goodness

I’ve been on a granola kick lately.

I love the crunchy texture in my yogurt and oatmeal (which I eat almost every day), so I go through a lot of granola.


It all started when I bought a bag at the Amish store in town.  It was  flavorful and fresh,  but also pricey, so I knew I needed to learn to make this myself.

This is also the season for everything pumpkin.  The poor pumpkin is basically ignored until October.  Then, for the next three months, it’s game on.

So far this month, I’ve made pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins and now….

Pumpkin spice granola.



I can definitely say life is better with pumpkin granola in it.

Granola is a very easy and forgiving snack to make.  It adapts well to substitutions which is good since I adapt quite a bit when I cook.  Here is the original recipe and here is my version.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1 c. almonds or peanuts, chopped
1 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c.-3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. sunflower oil*
1/2 c. honey
1-1/2 TBS pumpkin pie spice**
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250* F.  In a large bowl, combine oats, walnuts, almonds,
(or peanuts), and brown sugar.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining 
ingredients until well mixed.  Pour over the dry ingredients and mix until
all ingredients are wet.  Spread mixture on a baking sheet.  
Bake for 1 hour and 15 min.  Every 15 min., remove from the oven and stir
mixture to evenly bake.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  
Store in an airtight container.

**if you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you can use:
2-1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

*Side Note:  This summer, when I attended the Farm2Home Event at Moss Mountain Farm, I met the maker of a special sunflower oil.


Made on Wayne Plantation in Scott, AR, this virgin sunflower oil is cold pressed to retain flavor, aroma, and nutrients.  As an added bonus, it’s made with non-GMO sunflowers, provides twice the amount of Vitamin E than olive oil, and is low in saturated fats. Sounds like healthy to me.  I love it when that happens. 

When I made the last batch of granola, I used this oil in place of vegetable oil.  What a difference!  The nutty flavor of the oil was the perfect compliment to the already nuttiness of the granola.  Goodness Gracious this is Good Granola.

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to play around with this recipe.  The slightest substitution can make a surprising difference.




Posted in Cooking, Family, Farm life, Garden, Home, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments