Growing Osha in the Midwest?



When we moved from Colorado back to Wisconsin there were some medicinal plants we were going to miss. Osha (Ligusticum porteri) was one of the more unique and special plants. Osha primarily grows in the Rocky Mountains between 7,000 and 10,000 feet in aspen groves. Being elevation challenged here in Wisconsin we figured it wouldn’t be possible to grow it here.

Jessica had a few seeds she brought with her when we left Colorado and decided to plant them at our old house in Kenosha last year. Since it is a sacred plant, it was more of a sort of blessing for our house.

The other day we were at the old house doing one last cleaning before it sold and Jessica found that the Osha had sprouted next to an ornamental evergreen shrub! What timing! We carefully dug it up to bring with us to the new house. (We figured the new owner would think it was a weed and pull it out anyway.)

It will be interesting to see how the osha does here at around 700 feet elevation as opposed to 7,000.  We hope it makes it and produced seed so we can start more plants and have yet another at-risk plant growing on our land. I’ll keep you posted!



Learning our plants


Today was a really good day for Jessica & I to get out and check out plants for foraging. First we hiked at a weird little park and found a large number of wild edibles. Then we returned to our new house to meet the previous owner who was going to give us a tour of all the plants she had planted in the various gardens here. A large number are ornamental perennials, but every now and then she mentioned a plant which was edible, or medicinal. Some of these we already identified, others were a nice surprise.

Jessica made a list of everything, but the edibles which I recall off the top of my head are: serviceberry, sand cherry, solomon seal, false solomon seal, various chives, garlic, and allium, wild raspberry, wild strawberry,  sumac, spring beauty, ramps (in the woods), and possibly trout lily. She also pointed out areas where field mushrooms often grow.

There are still a lot of things we will need to identify in the wild parts of our land and we hope to learn some new foraging skills at the Spring Foraging workshop in the Wild Edibles and Medicinal Plants Series put on by Moonwise Herbs with guest instructor Samuel Thayer – Forager’s Harvest.

While we still have plans for traditional annual vegetable,  herb gardens, and a modest greenhouse, we really look forward to increasing the perennial wild edibles and medicinals which would grow natively to this area.


Goodbye to Kathy the Cat – 1995 -2015

Kathy the cat napping after reading a bit on foraging.

Today Jessica and I had to say goodbye to our beloved kitty, Kathy the cat. She was 20 years old and lived a good life. We loved her much, will miss her greatly, and will always be in our memories. We are grateful she was able to enjoy our new house a bit, and even got to see the duck trying to get in the window! She rests at the edge of our woods under towering spruce where her spirit can chase the bunnies who live there. She will live on in the catnip we planted on her resting place.

We love you and miss you Kathy!

The Plants of Spring



We are having fun watching all the plants come up in the gardens and woods at our new house. While the previous owner had planted a lot of purely ornamental varieties, we are finding several which are also medicinal.

Yesterday I identified the flower in the photo above as Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Jessica also identified Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) and Trillium (exact variety not determined yet). Both Bloodroot and Trillium are listed as at-risk medicinal plants with United Plant Savers, so we are even more excited to know that we are helping to save these plants.

Recent rain storms had raised the water level in our pond by at least a foot, and filled the wetland designated areas. With that additional water in areas of the woods I haven’t been back there to check and see what plants are coming up in the woodland.

We also transplanted some Catnip (Nepeta cataria) and Stinging Nettles (Urtica Dioica) from the yard at the old house. We also seeded Ramps (Allium tricoccum) in a small section of our woods. It is possible that ramps are already growing in the woods here, but since the wetland survey didn’t list them, we wanted to get some started just in case.

United Plant Savers have added Ramps to their “To Watch” list because they have the potential to become “At-risk” due to over harvesting. With ramps having become the new hip wild food for chefs and at ramps festivals, over-harvesting could wipe out ramp populations. Ramps take 5 to 7 years to produce seed,  and then the seeds take 6 to 18 months to germinate.

Our plan is to mainly observe the land this year before starting any serious permaculture designs, but we’ll probably plant a few things. Extending one of the garden beds to make a small kitchen garden is on the to-do list.

The New Homestead



Last week we said goodbye to the modest bungalow home on a city lot, and hello to the new home on almost three acres of land. Urban homesteading is a nobel goal, but we’ve been craving a bit more space between us and our neighbors and this new house gives us space!

The land is great—it has woods, an ephemeral pond, many perennial gardens (with some medicinals), plenty of room for annual veggie gardens and probably room for a greenhouse once we see where the shadows fall on the land. Another nice this is that the land has slope. The slope helps add more of a private feel to the yard, gives it more of a natural feel (instead of a typical flat yard), and the slope helps direct water to the ephemeral pond.

A wet land survey done for the previous owners shows we have: wild strawberry, black raspberry, hawthorn, selfheal, cramp bark (European highbush-cranberry), and various other plants with some medicinal or edible qualities. We look forward to identifying more plants as they come up, and to start planning what we want to add to our gardens and within the woodland.