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     Teeter Creek Tales

Journey To Teeter Creek

The little valley where we live and work has so much to do with how we came to live and do what we do. I grew up in the '60s outside of St. Louis in a new subdivision set among the last remnants of fields and farms. The little patches of woods and creeks were my refuge and solace. Growing up and watching these disappear made me seek out the wild places even more. Soon after I got my driver's license I drove as far back into the Ozark Hills, where I'd often gone canoing and camping, as I could go, and sat terrified all night in a pup tent as the worst lightning storm I've yet seen raged on and on.

But in a moment of blessed sleep I dreamed that a fine-dressed Indian man told me that I would give my bones up in a place like this and I felt my bones sink into the Earth, and there felt embraced and protected. I have been tied to the Earth ever since.

I soon left to live in the deserts and mountains of the Southwest. My neighbors (when I didn't live in the wilderness) were the Spanish-Americans and Indians. I learned from them that even in the most barren-looking deserts there were plants to use for food and medicine.

In the Rio Grande valley I met my wife of 23 years, Jan. A lovely woman, a rock who keeps it all going, from a family to an herb business, and can even fix all kinds of things that I'm ready to throw across the room. We were pregnant with our first child and I felt drawn back to the green hills of Missouri. My love for gardening was difficult at best in the desert. The government owned the water, and everyone else had to fight over it. I wanted to go back to where some rain fell from the sky. On the other hand, we just went through our worst drought in 50 or more years here in the Ozarks; but it was in the Southwest that I truly learned to appreciate water.

We then lived in several places in the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks where we got re-acquainted with the trees and ticks and poison ivy, along with the most incredible variety of plant, animal and bug life outside of the rain forest. Fortunately some of the more pestilent life forms around here keep out the masses who won't know of the secret places back in the beautiful rock-carved hollows where the purest, cold waters splash over little waterfalls and greet the wanderer through the jungle on a hot humid summer day.

We were looking for a little place with some live water and stopped in an aged real estate office on the little town square in Ava. The lady wasn't all that helpful. I happened to glance at a Polaroid on the wall of a little waterfall flowing over carved rocks. She indicated that the place was way out in the sticks. There was a light rain outside. She had on high heels. Great, we said; we wanted to see it. Off we went. Wound up on a gawd-awful road. A large tree blocked the road. We made the poor woman climb over the tree and go on. Then we entered the little valley at the very bottom of an Ozark canyon. A small meadow beside a rock-lined miniature canyon where crystal-clear water flowed.
The old cabin wasn't much. In fact, we couldn't see it standing a hundred feet across the spring branch from where we stood. The jungle had swallowed it! The inside was primitive to say the least. The pack rats had piled leaves and debris four feet high on the floors. I could feel my wife was not impressed. I was sure this was the place.

So over the years we hacked back the jungle, re- claimed the gardens, and fixed up the old house which Uncle John Graham built in 1906, and where he raised three daughters, not an easy life for a hill man back then in this remote place.
I began camped in a tent in the meadow, working on the old cabin while my family rented an old farm house. I immediately began to notice an amazing variety of plant life, many things I saw growing nowhere else in the area. Suddenly, all around my tent a carpet of calamint, a dainty purple-flowered relative of penny royal, sprang up and everywhere I walked or a breeze would blow, there was the purest wafts of sharp, mind-bracing mint. The plants were calling to me.

Our land is surrounded by several thousand acres of privately-owned wilderness, much of it owned by a monastery of Trappist monks. Within this mini-wilderness our land, as I have since found, is a unique little niche for rare plants and an abundance of varieties. In the swampy meadow grow rare ice-age plants, found only in cool, dark hollows. They are remnants of the last ice age, hundreds of miles south of their normal range. They have been here for 20,000 years or more! There are plants of the woods, water, desert, garden, and prairie; for this land has a great variety of environments in a small area. The Ozarks in general, some of the oldest hills in the world, also are on of the most botanically diverse regions in the world.

I began to study the plants more closely. I learned a few of their uses; both from old hill people and from books. We began to eat the wild greens that folks gathered around here to supplement their diets. We discovered that these weren't eaten because they were starvation foods, but because they were good and full of nutrition, many times what our garden varieties have.

Before a plant that I can't name, became popular, I knew it was a plant that the Indians valued highly. It called to me. I dug a root when I was ill and chewed the root and I was healed! Comfrey for injuries, Chickweed for skin, Plantain for poisonous bites. My family all became guinea pigs. I soon discovered that the results of the fresh herbs I gathered were far beyond what I had seen from the low-quality herbs that were mostly available on the market. Not to mention the relationship I was beginning to have with the plants.

I began to make tinctures of the fresh plants and found it was an ideal way to preserve the potency of the fresh herbs, and obtain the results I was seeing. I studied the literature of the Eclectics (M.D. s who used plant-based remedies), the uses of plants by the Indians, and folk medicine, including that which can still be found in the Ozarks.

Soon neighbors were wanting the herbs. I began to distribute my extracts to the little towns around. Soon I quit my job milking cows (no loss, I like plants much better than cows), and have devoted all my time to studying the plants, growing herbs, consulting and formulating. I wouldn't do any of it if I couldn't be out with the plants and get my hands in the dirt. My wish is to bring some of the relationship I have with the plants to others, so they too may experience the wonderful healing energy of the green world.
We do not claim to be the source of any of it. Whenever we gather herbs, we leave an offering for the Creator and the Mother Earth. And when I look back on how things came about, I know that I had no choice in the matter but was propelled down this path of living with and by and for my green relations.

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