Many residents in Clay and Owen counties have access to a wooded area and if you are like me, you may find it interesting to see some of the wonderful things that come out of those woods.
The things that I find most interesting often can be found at craft fairs, festivals and fairs. However, there are other things that can be found in your backyard woods, which are special treasures. There are four categories of items that come out of a backyard woods besides lumber. Those categories are foods, medicines, decorations and crafts.
There are a lot of food items, which can be found in your woods. Items include berries, wild fruits, nuts and even maple syrup. Some of the berries you might find in your woods at various times throughout the year include pawpaws, persimmons, crabapples, gooseberries and mulberries. Nuts are especially popular due to their impact on healthy living. Acorns, black walnuts, hickories and pecans are common around Indiana. Of the hickory nuts, the most desirable is shagbark hickory because they have a sweet taste. Making maple syrup is an interesting and difficult process that is mostly done in the northeast. However, something you might find interesting is that it takes about 30-40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup.
Before you consume anything from your backyard, please be certain that the item is not poisonous. There are a variety of resources available at public libraries and on the Internet to help you identify plants and plant products. Additionally, you can bring them back to your local Purdue Extension Office for some assistance.
There are a number of plants that can be used for medicinal purposes. Broadleaf woods are the best for growing medicinal plants. Two of the plants, which you may find in your woods that have been of some value in the past, including ginseng and goldenseal. In Indiana, there are regulations about harvesting and selling ginseng. Therefore, it is important you contact your local conservation officer before you decide to harvest or sell ginseng. The harvest season for ginseng currently runs from Sept. 1-Dec. 31.
Decorating with things from woods is a common practice around the holiday seasons. Often, individuals like to make Christmas wreaths out of pine needles or grape vines, make baskets from willow stems, or use items like cork screw willow or red stemmed dogwood for floral arrangements.
Cones from trees are sometimes used throughout the winter months for decorations too.
In some towns throughout Indiana, organizations and businesses often take stems from pine trees, cones and holly to make arrangements in their outdoor flower beds for this time of year. This was done in Spencer during November by the local Garden Club.
Crafts made from items you can find in the woods are always one of a kind, making them a true treasure. There are individuals who are able to take conks (fungi fruiting structures on tree trunks) and make beautiful painted items out of them. Others may simply make a craft or decorative item by taking a hornet's next (after a good hard frost) and preserving it in a flower arrangement. One of the easiest crafts you can make in the coming days with your children and grandchildren are bird cone treats. All you need to do is collect cones from your wood and tie yarn around them so that you can hang them up. Then dip the cone in a mixture of peanut butter and vegetable shortening (one part to one part). Once you have the cone covered, roll it in birdseed. Place the cone on a tree or bush outside that you can see and watch the birds come to enjoy the creative treat you made for them.
In the coming months, there will be a Purdue master Gardener Program offered at the Clay County Extension Office. It will take place on Tuesday nights from 6-9 p.m., from Feb. 2, 2010, to April 27, 2010. A variety of topics will be covered by a host of different Purdue Extension Specialist and Extension Educators.
Cost of the program is $75 and it is important that you register early since there is only space for 15 individuals in the class. To register, contact the Clay County Extension Office at 448-9041.
If you have any questions or comments about this week's column or need any other assistances pertaining to agriculture, home horticulture or natural resources, please contact your local Purdue Extension Office by calling 448-9041 in Clay County, or 812-829-5020 in Owen County. If you would like to contact me directly, I can be reached at either of the two numbers listed above or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
* Dec. 24-25 -- Office closed,
* Dec. 31, Jan. 1 -- Office closed,
* Jan. 14 -- Land Lease Program with Clay, Owen, Sullivan and Vigo counties. Clay County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, 6:30-8:30 p.m.,
* Jan. 15 -- Estate and Family Business Planning, Sullivan County Fairgrounds, 8:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m. (Cost varies. Contact 812-268-4332 to register by Jan. 12),
* Jan. 18 -- Office closed, and
* Jan. 21 -- Land Lease Program with Clay, Owen, Sullivan and Vigo counties. Wabash Valley Fairgrounds, 10 a.m.-noon.