Monday, August 25, 2008

The Witch's Garden

These violets sowed themselves in the rock garden. I love plants that volunteer, and I have several favorites of that type: marigolds, violets, and borage.

Here is the wild bluebell. It grows about 3 feet tall, and is found in woodland areas. It always brings my childhood to mind, I have vivid memories of these growing with wild tiger lilies in the trees at the shore of our cottage.

This plant grows in a clump of iris. It smells sweet like Nicotiana, but it seems hardy enough to be a weed. I thought it might be cowcockle, but I'll have to compare it with my plant book. I don't think it has the same seed heads as cowcockle, though the flowers are a similar shape.

This plant reminds me of medieval herb gardens. It's a type of globe thistle. I transplanted it from my sister's garden last year, and now it's over 4 feet tall and about 4 feet wide.

Here are the tops of the borage. The lovely blue star-shaped flowers are favorites of bees. They are edible, and taste a bit like cucumber. For fancy drinks, you can put a borage flower in each compartment of an icecube tray, and freeze them inside the cubes. The plant is used for medicinally, most recently as a source of omega 3-6-9. The plant is self-seeding, and reappears every year, though it is an annual.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Home on the Range

Rather than hay the pastures this year, I decided to rent them as pasture, and then buy hay. This works well, since my land is very hilly, and isn't the best for cultivating hay, though it is excellent pastureland for animals. The hills provide more surface area for grass, and the uneven landscape is good exercise for the animals, plus the valleys collect moisture so there is a mix of plants for them to feed on.

We walk the pastures to check fences and see how much grass there is -- now that we are into August, the growing season is diminishing. We followed this steer out to the far pasture, where all 150 cows were collected.

We were followed by this little coyote who yelped and barked at us until we were out of her territory. You can see her in the middle of the picture, between the trees and the fence.

Then the dogs and I moved the cattle out, up the hill for counting.

It is very thrilling to hear a herd of cattle run over dry ground. The sound of hoofbeats gets into your chest like the burr of drum corps before battle. It evokes a memory of long ago, of bison running over these lands, and battles fought here between Blackfoot and Sarcee and Cree. If you ever have an opportunity to visit a ranch, you must venture out on foot and stand by while the cattle are moving.