Hard Work and Sweat

September 14, 2011

Imagine a group of Indians sitting quietly under the shade of a tree, wiping sweat from their brow and calculating how many more trips they must make with their baskets to complete their newest mound.  They have made countless trips already and their efforts are almost complete.  Hard work and sweat were some of the tools used recently to preserve a piece of Arkansas’ history.  Recently, the staff at Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park worked side by side with the Arkansas Archeological Survey, volunteers from the Arkansas Archeological Society, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commissions “Stream Team” to stop the erosion of one of the mound slopes at the park.  A sense of accomplishment was the end result, knowing that we had done our part to preserve this piece of the past.  Here is our story.

Artifacts

Artifacts

One fall afternoon, the park staff was picking up trash along the lake bank and discovered several artifacts that had surfaced on Mound P.  The fluctuating water levels of the lake had partly caused the erosion of the back side of this mound.  The survey archeologist at the time was Dr. Jane Anne Blakney-Bailey.  Under her direction, we surface collected the artifacts and started making plans to stabilize the slope.  The picture to the right shows some of the artifacts that were collected.

Bone disc

Bone disc

One of the first things that needed to be done was to excavate a portion of the mound.  This area of the site was uncharted territory for professional archeologist so this was an exciting opportunity to explore the mound.  The Arkansas Archeological Society and the Arkansas Archeological Survey held the annual training dig at Toltec Mounds during the summer of 2010.  Under the direction of Dr. Blakney-Bailey, Mound P was selected as a dig location.  There were six units opened up and a wide variety of artifacts and features were discovered at this location during excavation.  The picture shows a one of the artifacts  that was found as a result of this excavation.

Once the excavation was complete, further plans were made to stabilize the mound so that more artifacts were not lost to erosion.  Park Superintendent Stewart Carlton worked to find the best possible methods to get the job done.  He enlisted the advice and help of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Stream Team” and the current resident archeologist Dr. Elizabeth Horton.  They worked together to develop a preservation plan.  The plan was carried out on August 31st, 2011.  The loose vegetation was cleared away and coconut matting was placed directly on the mound surface and held in place with wooden stakes.  Large tree trunks were then laid down and secured at the base of the mound with metal cables.  The final step was to plant and encourage vegetation to grow on the mound slope.  Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words…

This long vanished culture (archeologists call them the Plum Bayou Culture) can speak to us only through artifacts and features like the mounds.  Archeologists get one chance to read the true story of the Plum Bayou Culture.  If erosion, animal burrows or looting get in the way, accurate information is lost forever.  Preserving archeological features allows archeologists a chance to see features of the site undisturbed.  Saving these 1,200 year old features provides priceless information for future generations.

Robin Gabe, Park Interpreter

Robin Gabe, Park Interpreter

Robin Gabe has been a park interpreter at Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park for eight years. She began her career with Arkansas State Park system as a seasonal interpreter at Lake Poinsett State Park. She grew up in Caldwell, Arkansas and received her Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro in 1997.

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When All is Lost

January 25, 2011

Interpreters, like most educators, know what it is like to operate on a shoe string budget – utilizing the resources at hand (leaves, seeds, and scenic vistas) and re-utilizing everyday materials (popsicle sticks, material scraps, and my favorite – peanut butter jars). There is something gratifying about not needing all the bells and whistles to highlight the significance of a place as special as Devil’s Den State Park.  However, when the tidbits of ideas, pictures, outlines, and contacts are all taken away, you realize how much time and research has gone into making the history of your park come to life.

On December 20, the interpreters’ office at Devil’s Den State Park was broken into. The perpetrators stole a range of items from our computers that stored things from contact information to pictures to amphitheater programs as well as personal effects like backpacks and hats and program materials like animal skins and binoculars. The saddest part about the loss is not the personal violation one feels when being broken into, but that those items were to help our visitors’ experience the park. These were the tangible items and thoughts that we had accumulated through the years to help tell the unique history of the park.

Although the loss was hard to accept as we walked around in a cloud of disbelief making a list of all the items gone from our repertoire, I am appeased to realize that the story of the park is still here! There was nothing in the office as precious as the materials found throughout the park. I look to the challenge of the days to come as a fresh start, a reason to get out taking photos around the park, a chance to brainstorm ideas, and revamp programs. If my programs were in a rut, they have just been given a fresh start! It will take time to rebuild our interpretive programs, but at least I have a good foundation and a great team to work with. This is a learning experience that has reconnected me to the resources outside my office and the fundamental things that no one can take from you – your ideas, knowledge, and Elmer’s glue (just try it!).

 

The history of Devil's Den is intact, in the park.

The history of Devil's Den is intact, in the park.

Please consider sharing your program ideas with me! What would you like to do on a visit to Devil’s Den State Park?

 

The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Interpreter Spurlock is determined to keep walking! Join her on one of her many fascinating, guided hikes through Devil’s Den State Park.)

Rebekah Spurlock, Devil's Den State Park

Rebekah Spurlock, Interpreter, Devil's Den State Park

Rebekah Spurlock is a native Arkansan, originally from the Delta. Since graduating with her Master’s in Geography in 2007 from the University of Memphis, Rebekah has called Devil’s Den State Park home.


Unique Ways to Support your Arkansas State Parks

July 29, 2010

The Coca-Cola Company and its subsidiary, Odwalla have created some exciting ways to support both state and national parks.

Which is your favorite park?

Which is your favorite park?

From the Live Positively Website: “For over 40 years, Coca-Cola has supported America’s national parks. Through our support of individual parks and the National Park Foundation, we’ve helped maintain and rebuild 260 miles of trails so families can be active together while enjoying the great outdoors. In the last 4 years we’ve donated over 4 million dollars to national parks for restoration and renovation.

To demonstrate our commitment to our parks we’re encouraging all families to come out and play this summer. You can also help support America’s parks by simply voting for your favorite. The national or state park with the most votes will receive a $100,000 grant from Coca-Cola. Vote as many times as you like from 7/29 to 8/31”

This could easily be an Arkansas State Park. It’s up to you. They don’t ask for any personal information and you can vote as often and for as many parks as you would like. We just ask that you make them Arkansas State Parks.

You plant up to 5 trees.

You plant up to 5 trees.

From the Plant-A-Tree Website: “For the past 2 years, along with your help, Odwalla has made a commitment to our state parks by donating money to help plant trees. It’s pretty simple. We provide the trees, and you get to decide how much support each state gets.”

You can plant up to 5 trees and for every tree planted for Arkansas, the state parks gets $1.00 toward the purchase and planting of trees. This could be used for youth programs, facility landscaping or reforestation.

For this one they had us create a video to promote the program. Watch it here. Vote For Trees Thanks for supporting Arkansas State Parks.


Swallowtails in my Heart

June 4, 2010

“What is your favorite butterfly?” I am asked that question by both children and adults. So many of our butterflies are beautiful in both color and grace, so it can be difficult to pick just one to say its your “favorite.” Sometimes a favorite butterfly has a deeper, more personal meaning.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Maybe it’s just this time of year when the butterflies and wildflowers really begin to thrive, or maybe I’m just feeling sentimental, but when I see a swallowtail, I still feel like a little kid. My first butterfly was a black swallowtail, so for this and other reasons, it remains my personal favorite. Sorry, my beloved Diana fritillary, you are somewhat second when it comes to being my first love.

Balck Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

My love of butterflies began with a fifth-grade homework assignment. I am still in contact with my teacher. To a little kid, a caterpillar tucked into an empty pickle jar with a bunch of unidentified leaves wasn’t an epiphany until the black swallowtail emerged eight months later. Then, as my father can corroborate, I was hooked.

As I watch our swallowtails flit through the air, I do look at them with the eyes of an educated adult, but I still have a sense of awe and wonder. The swallowtails living in Arkansas are such amazing creatures, and you can enjoy them in both your yard and in our state parks.

Mud-puddling Zebras and Pipevine Swallowtails

Mud-puddling Zebras and Pipevine Swallowtails

Swallowtails on the wing in May include black, pipevine, zebra, Eastern tiger, spicebush, and giant swallowtails. Since more people are adding both nectar and host plants to their home gardens, more people are looking and attracting these insects. One of the best parts of my job is to give someone advice one year, and then listen to their success stories in the following years.

Perhaps one of the best examples of attempting to live in harmony with butterflies is the gardener who puts up with black swallowtail caterpillars on their parsley, dill, and fennel. To begin life resembling a bird dropping assures some demise. If only they started life as their mature yellow-green color, and if only they wouldn’t chow down on the same leaves we want to eat so rapidly! For this reason, I grow Queen Anne’s lace, just in case I need to transfer caterpillars.

Dark Form Female Tiger Swallowtail

Dark Form Female Tiger Swallowtail

More gardeners are becoming interested in growing Dutchman’s pipevine for pipevine swallowtails. This shade plant contains chemicals that once ingested, help defend both caterpillar and adult from hungry predators. Pipevine swallowtails are often the first swallowtail to emerge in spring, and have multiple generations in one year. Their iridescence is unmatched in the sunlight.

The tails of zebra swallowtails are longer in the summer form than the spring form, and both are master of dizzying flight maneuvers.

To study one or all of the swallowtails is a lifetime of fun in itself. For me, seeing a large butterfly with tails always makes my day a little brighter.

Just this week, I spent a mere 30 minutes standing in one spot on Will Apple’s Road Trail at Mount Magazine State Park, and saw a flurry of activity. A pipevine swallowtail unsuccessfully attempted to court a red-spotted purple. Talk about mistaken identity! A female giant swallowtail was flitting from hop tree to hop tree (aka wafer ash), searching for a suitable place to lay eggs. A dark-form female tiger swallowtail flew into the courtship of the other two black butterflies and disrupted them. A satyr flew by my head. I flushed a red-banded hairstreak from the ground. A fresh silver-spotted skipper was basking in the sunlight near its host plant, a black locust almost in fragrant full bloom. The pipevine swallowtail gave up the courtship and flew away. The red-spotted purple finally alighted on a cherry tree and basked in a sliver of sunlight. Everyone benefits by immersing themselves in a natural setting such as this. It frees the heart and mind.

One of the amazing aspects of nature is the symbiotic relationship between wildflowers and their butterfly pollinators. Later this May, male Diana fritillaries emerge from their chrysalises, with females following approximately three weeks later. This is well synchronized with the blooming of butterfly weed, purple coneflower, bee balm, and several others.

Kids really enjoy the Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival!

Kids really enjoy the Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival!

Arkansas has many butterfly “hot spots,” and special events designed to help visitors enjoy them more. The Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival, coming up June 25-26, is dedicated to creating awareness of butterflies in their natural habitat and their importance as pollinators. The weekend is full of programs, hikes, children’s games and crafts, a live arthropod zoo, garden tours, and two concerts. It is a great way for families to spend a weekend together.

I think I’ll head outside and check my parsley (again) for black swallowtail caterpillars. I’m still a little kid at heart who would much rather be outside.

Lori Spencer, Certified Heritage Interpreter

Lori Spencer, Certified Heritage Interpreter

Lori Spencer is the author of Arkansas Butterflies and Moths, and has won multiple awards for volunteer work at Mount Magazine State Park and throughout Arkansas. Since she moved to Arkansas in 1992, Lori has been an active voice for creating awareness about Arkansas’s rich butterfly heritage and their conservation needs. She has been associated with the Mount Magazine Butterfly Festival since its inception in 1997. She volunteers for four different organizations, including Logan County Master Gardeners, the Mount Magazine Action Group, and the National Association for Interpretation, and is both the Arkansas and Louisiana coordinator for the Butterflies and Moths of North America website. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and a master’s degree in entomology from the University of Arkansas. She is both a Certified Heritage Interpreter and Certified Interpretive Guide. She received a national conservation award by the Daughters of the American Revolution recently.


Plant a tree in Arkansas!

May 25, 2010
Vote for Arkansas

Vote for Arkansas

You can vote for Arkansas to receive trees donated by Odwalla’s Plant a Tree program!  Simply log onto the Plant-A-Tree Web site and enter your email address. You can only vote once, so please encourage your friends and family to take part in this event. You can even link it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

1 vote = $1 for trees. Odwalla is donating a total of  $200,000 towards the purchase of trees for America’s State Parks.  This is a great opportunity to help the environment as well as your local community so take a minute or two of your time today and vote for Arkansas. Below is a reminder of just what trees mean to Arkansas State Parks!

We don’t have a code in our park guide so we are only able to vote once per person. Now just Vote for Arkansas! Thanks!


Herbal Feasts and Sumptuous Suppers

April 28, 2010
Decorative and tasty.

Decorative and tasty.

Over the long history of Arkansas State Parks there have been a myriad of surprising delights and educational opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else. For example, the very first Lavish Herbal Feast occurred on April 22, 1989, at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, Arkansas. It was a collaborative production of the all-woman volunteer organization, The Committee of 100 for the Ozark Folk Center, herbal experts Jim Long and Billy Joe Tatum and the Heritage Herb Garden and the park staff. The meal began with a Sweet Woodruff May Punch reception hosted by the Herb Garden Committee of the Committee of 100. The feast featured five courses with live violin music by Maestro James Gambino. The dinner was the opening event of the third annual Heritage Herb Weekend.

Cream Dill

Cream Dill

The Lavish Herbal Feast in the spring and the autumnal Herb Harvest Sumptuous Supper are a part of the herbal traditions that set the Ozark Folk Center Arkansas State Parks apart from any other park system. Arkansas State Parks boast a nationally noted herb garden at the Ozark Folk Center that was funded by monies raised by The Committee of 100. The collaborative spirit that was planted in the garden by the Committee of 100 has grown to include the participation of the Ozark Folk Center volunteers, Arkansas Master Gardeners, the Mountain View Garden Club and the Ozark Chapter of the Herb Society of America, and a small army of individual friends. Many young people have completed community service hours working in the greenhouse and gardens while helping to prepare for the herb dinners and events.

Pansy-Saled Burrnet

Pansy-Saled Burrnet

Today, at the entrance of the Skillet Restaurant, pause to stroke and inhale the essential oil of the rosemary bushes and pinch a bay leaf from the towering tree in the native stone alcove. Once inside, be seated at oak tables in high back chairs to enjoy a meal in comfortable elegance. Only glass separates you from birds feathered in every hue; catch the flash of a pileated woodpecker and the antics of chipmunks and squirrels. Admire the homestead antiques that are displayed on the cornice; cast iron chandeliers suspended from exposed wooden beams, shine light on an evening meal. The Skillet’s hospitable wait staff serves great country cooking every day, during the season, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m..

Garlic Flower and Flat Leaf Parsley.

Garlic Flower and Flat Leaf Parsley.

For future fun, foodies and herb enthusiasts might visit The Ozark Folk Center State Park and mark your calendars. Each spring and fall, preceding the Heritage Herb Spring Extravaganza and the Herb Harvest Fall Festival, The Skillet Restaurant becomes an epicurean destination. Fresh themes are explored at every event. The reception is comprised of live music, artful arrangements of flowers, multi-textured and scented leaves, herbal libations and tantalizing appetizers. Seasonal foods are selected for the menu with conscious consideration for the satisfaction of meat lovers and vegetarians. Fresh herbs and greens are harvested from the park’s Kitchen Garden. The Skillet is festooned, a special program is always included as a part of the evening and the appetite is whetted for more knowledge of herbs.

Kale and Pansy.

Kale and Pansy.

The next Lavish Herbal Feast is Thursday, April 29, 2010. The menu begins with a Summer Greek Salad followed by Tomato Bisque Soup with Dill, Herb of the Year 2010. There are three entrees from which to choose: Vegetables and Tempeh Au Gratin, Roast Leg of Lamb with Pistachio-Mint Pesto, Chicken with Amaretto Tarragon Sauce. The spring vegetables include New Potatoes with Dill and Lemon Zest and Fresh Snow Peas with Chervil. The grand finale is Tres Leche Cake served with Strawberries in Lemon Verbena Syrup.

Committee of 100 member Patricia French with cookbook authors Pat Crocker and Susan Belsinger have designed the dinner. Members of the Ozark Chapter of the Herb Society of America will assist the Committee of 100 with the reception. The Lavish Herbal Feast sells out every year. Reservations are required by April 21. The Herb Harvest Sumptuous Supper is Thursday, September 30, 2010. The reception begins at 6 p.m., with dinner at 6:30 both evenings.  Visit The Ozark Folk Center State Park for further details or call (870) 269-3851.

Lemon Cheese Cake-nast, Pineapple, Sageleaf, Sunflower.

Lemon Cheese Cake-nast, Pineapple, Sageleaf, Sunflower.

Tina Wilcox, Park Gardener and Herbalist

Tina Wilcox, Park Gardener and Herbalist

Tina Marie Wilcox has been the head gardener and herbalist at the Ozark Folk Center’s Heritage Herb Garden in Mountain View, Arkansas since 1984. She tends the extensive gardens, plans and coordinates annual herbal events and workshops and facilitates the production of sale plants, seeds and herbal products for the park.  She is a well-seasoned herbal educator and entertainer and co-author of the creative herbal home, which has been translated into Japanese and will be released in Japan in 2010.

Tina is currently collaborating with co-Author, Susan Belsinger, on articles for The Herb Companion, and Grit magazines. She writes a weekly herb and garden column entitled “Yarb Tales” for the Stone County Leader.

Tina is a member of the Herb Society of America, the American Botanical Council, and serves on the board of the International Herb Association.

Tina Marie Wilcox sings and plays guitar with a women’s trio known as The Herbin’ League.  The trio performs traditional mountain folk music and an eclectic blend of favorite tunes with an emphasis on three-part harmony.

Tina’s philosophy is based upon experiencing the joy of the process, perpetrating no harm, and understanding life through play with plants and people.


Old-fashioned Community Energy

April 8, 2010

Volunteer Days at the Ozark Folk Center

Volunteer Days is a great time to try out new food ideas, like kettle corn.

Volunteer Days is a great time to try out new food ideas, like kettle corn.

The Ozarks is a unique and special place. Well-known for their beauty, these hills are also known for being challenging to live in or travel through. The weather here is a drama queen, tempestuous thundering tantrums one hour – sunshine and flowers the next.

In many ways living in the Ozarks is a balancing act. The abundant water in lakes, streams and falling rain is balanced by muddy, destructive flooding waters. The wild foods, natural fruits, nuts, greens and berries growing with wild abandon are counter-weighted by the challenges of trucking food-stuffs in to hill country supermarkets.

One thing about the Ozarks that has no downside is the people. On the whole, whether native to this land or drawn to it, the people who live in the Ozark Mountains are self-sufficient, creative and caring.

Volunteer and jeweler Linda Widmer paints the trim on the Doll  Shop windows.

Volunteer and jeweler Linda Widmer paints the trim on the Doll Shop windows.

Perhaps because there are relatively few people, everyone is appreciated for their qualities. Now, that doesn’t mean that everybody likes each other or that gossip isn’t the town’s main entertainment, but it does mean that whether you like your neighbor or not, you’ll still go help him raise his barn and bring food to the potluck.

The Ozark Folk Center is an Arkansas State Park that was founded to celebrate and preserve this unique spirit. Where other parks have acres of natural beauty, we have uniquely creative people willing to share their music and crafts. A seasonal park, we don’t officially open until April 16. Starting about mid-March though, we get lots of calls. People are starting to stir in the hills. People want to get out and see people.

Ozark Folk Center volunteer coordinator Kathy Hair encourages volunteers Wayne and Charlotte Russell as they scrub the Spinning and Weaving Shop windows.

Ozark Folk Center volunteer coordinator Kathy Hair encourages volunteers Wayne and Charlotte Russell as they scrub the Spinning and Weaving Shop windows.

Bringing together the barn-raising spirit, spring fever and the spring cleaning urge, we started Volunteer Days at the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village in 2008. This year’s days are April 13 and 14. We invite the public from far and wide to come help us put the finishing touch on our park before we open. We’ve had folks from Colorado, Maryland, Oregon and Louisiana chipping in to scrub walls, paint window and weed gardens right next to the neighbors from down the street.

Some of the projects are planned, like scrubbing the outside of every window in the village, hanging the pictures in the Administration hallway or planting the garden around the Shannon Cabin. Others take stock of volunteer’s strengths like painting shop signs or rebuilding cabin doors. Some volunteers run drinks, tools and messages to other helpers. Musicians who want to practice and warm up their acts after the long winter can perform on the outdoor stage and add energy to the event.

Ozark Folk Center’s Group Sales Manager Jimmie Edwards shares comments with KFFB’s General Manager Bob Connell.

Ozark Folk Center’s Group Sales Manager Jimmie Edwards shares comments with KFFB’s General Manager Bob Connell.

The whole community gets involved in the volunteer cleanup days. Local radio station KFFB has done a remote live broadcast from the event for the last two years and fed the volunteers pizza and soda pop for lunch. In 2009 it seemed like everyone was thanking KFFB’s Bob Connell for his great program during that winter’s ice storm. He kept his station on the air and connecting people during the storm that devastated the areas forests and left many people without electricity for weeks. This year, Centennial Bank is providing lunch on the 13th and of course, people bring cookies, salads and other treats for potluck. There’s always more food than people, so if you’re thinking of driving up to Mountain View for the event, don’t worry about bringing food with you.

The Ozark Folk Center isn’t open during this event, we open officially April 16th. So if you’re looking for top quality music shows and crafters taking the time to demonstrate their crafts, wait a few more days. But if you want to come be a part of the community spirit that the Center was founded to preserve and perpetuate, join us on April 13th and 14th for Volunteer Days.

Jeanette Larson, Crafts Director

Jeanette Larson, Crafts Director

Jeanette Larson has been a fiber artist all her life, weaving the threads of her art through her careers in journalism and management. In 2006 the fates conspired to send her to the Mountain View area and settle her in her niche as Craft Director at the Ozark Folk Center, where her passion for handwork and the people who use their hands to create has brought new life to the old ways.