Death to Nightshade

What? I’m killing plants? Settle down, nature lovers. I need to safely get rid of a plant that’s dangerous for the horses in the areas that are going to be dry, and I need to remove some snake habitat near the chickens.

When there’s not much grass, horses will eat anything.

The beautiful local nightshade, the silver leaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) is everywhere this time of year. It has pretty purple flowers and cool tomato-like but inedible fruit.

Pretty flowers, but nasty thorns.

It’s hard to pull it up, because of the thorns all over the leaves and stems, but I need to make the area where Apache will be staying safe for him. In a pasture, there’s plenty of other grass, so it’s no big deal. But, in the “dry lot” or pen, where were now putting him in afternoons, he’d eat it.

Apache had a fine new hay bag to snack on. Horses need to eat pretty much all the time.

So, I was given a big sprayer with a mixture of white vinegar, salt, and Dawn dish detergent in it. This is bad for plants, but not toxic for animals. I sprayed around the chicken coop first. They thought it was treat time, because the spray made all the grasshoppers jump off the plants and into the pen.

Sad plant by chicken coop

I then sprayed under the roof where the stalls will be, and got most of the rock pile sprayed (the rocks are leftover limestone bricks from building our house).

Unhappy nightshade. Ok grass.

When I walked out this morning, all the forbs looked really sad, including the nightshade. The grass looked parched, but not awful. I may have to spray it again, when we get more ingredients.

I never was so pleased at killing anything.

So, it looks like we will ditch the commercial herbicides and use this method to clean up around our property and keep all our animals safe and happy.

We still have PLENTY of grass.

Sad Sombreros and Beautiful Beetles

I spent a nice time today just looking at the plants and insects around the Hermits’ Rest. As I was walking down the path I enjoyed the Mexican Hat flowers (Ratibida columnifera or upright prairie coneflower).

They come in lots of colors.

I’ve always loved these plants, because they look cheerful, have cool leaves, smell interesting, and attract lots of insects.

They are just plain cute.

I’m glad they are all along the drive between the two main houses, because I get to be distracted by the butterflies, bees, and bugs.

Hungry beetle.

What’s weird is that I’ve been noticing weird flowers in the Mexican Hats. Really weird flowers.

They range from double flowers to extra flowers growing out of the cones to multiple cones. It’s quite odd.

This looks like Mickey Mouse’s hand.

Of course these aren’t “normal.” I see no flowers like that along the roadside. These flowers are next to the field where the oats were grown that became this year’s silage for the cows on the land we’ve leased out. They applied herbicide to get rid of non-oats, and it landed on the edges of the oats.

Engelmann daisies and Mexican Hats in front of the oat area.

I feel bad for the flowers, but we gave permission for the spraying. That’s modern farming. As a Naturalist I may have a different viewpoint, but these folks need to make a living and feed their cattle efficiently. And they ARE cute when they are young.

Feed us.

There’s plenty of wild space here at the ranch, so I’m happy. Look at this gorgeous milkweed beetle!

I’m cool. More than just monarchs eat milkweed.

It’s grasshopper season, too. There are just “a few” in the pasture where Sara’s horses are.

A popular hangout.

And I just have to say some of the bugs make me smile. This flower scarab beetle with its pollen butt is just cute.

Stop looking at my butt.
Another scarab and thistle.

I’m very grateful to have so many things to discover and observe here. I really enjoy sharing it with all of you. It’s a great journey.

Good evening!