What Inspires Me?

Wild mushrooms in a basket

"What inspires you about being in / working on your woodlands?"

To understand what inspires me you have to understand my background.  I am a city girl.  I try to deny it, but I spent my early life in large cities: Dallas and Tulsa.  But my Mom’s parents were country folk.  We would travel to their “farm” in NW Arkansas for Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, and 4th of July.  I loved it!  I never wanted to leave the woods, the pastures, the animals!  I swam in the creek, caught lightening bugs, ate green persimmons: country cousins always pull this stunt on us city cousins.  I hunted morels for the first time with my Grandfather in the woods growing next to the branch (Arkie for ephemeral stream).  My Dad’s side of the family was also country folk.  We would visit his Aunt who lived next to a creek.  She had sulfur water (awful, horrible stuff) so the first job we kids had was to go to the spring and get fresh water.  While we were getting water, we were also told to gather a “mess” of wild watercress. She would then make a salad out of hot bacon, wild onions, and vinegar. I was also a Camp Fire Girl. Camp Fire allowed me to explore and experience the outdoors in many different ways at camp, working on projects, and serving as a camp counselor. These early experiences instilled in me a deep interest in Nature.


Tamara standing by pine trees











Now, as a woodland owner, my husband and I can spend hours hunting for mushrooms on our little 30 acres.  I’ve never been able to get him to explore our woods much in the summer time.  It’s too hot.  Too ticky.  But once we started gathering mushrooms, I couldn’t keep him from the woods.  I also forage for wild edibles like poke salet, wood sorrel, muscadine grapes, and persimmon.  I use wild edibles plants in my forestry and environmental education programs.  At least that’s my excuse.  The truth is that there’s no better day to me than putting my boots on, grabbing a basket or plastic sack and knife, and heading out to forage.  I know that I could easily cultivate the most common wild plants that I gather.  We could probably cultivate the more common mushrooms.  But part of the enticement is the thrill of the hunt.  Will I find anything?  Will I find something different, new, exciting, or even terrifying?  And there is so much more to see!  It’s not unusual for me to pick up interesting tidbits.  My husband knows to check my pockets before doing the laundry because I could have anything in my pockets.  Acorns, flowers, pine cones, rocks, maybe even a cedar apple gall. So what inspires me?  The same thing that thrilled me as a child: exploring and learning about all that I see, hear, and smell out in our woods.