Habitat Heroes

Mothers Day Gifts

Wildflower Hunters in the Bighorn Mountains Photo: Dusty Downey
Habitat Heroes

Mothers Day Gifts

This time of year I tend to reminisce about past springs, when garden planting, hunting for wildflowers, and generally getting outside have become an important part of keeping my sanity after a long cold winter. I have this image in my head of my two daughters rolling in the muddy expanse that we call our garden, laughing and trying to catch the chickens who are faster than they are. It always makes me smile and gets me through the last few months of winter. Then, I start to hyperventilate because it’s time to do our garden planning. Trying to figure out when we’ll hit that sweet spot of everyone being at home at once, the weather being cooperative, and having all the materials on hand that we’ll need to get started is a challenge because we live on a ranch which is nowhere near a garden store. Over the years I have gotten much better at having our supplies ready, but I’m still at the mercy of Wyoming weather. Last Saturday was nearly 80 degrees and sunny, this weekend is slated to have a high of 40 degrees and a lovely mix of rain and snow.

Getting ready to plant our garden. Photo: Jacelyn Downey

A helpful garden to-do and supply list: http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/gardening/outdoor/garden-starting-checklist

Regardless of the weather, getting outside with my girls is my favorite thing to do. It makes sense that as I look through past Mother’s Day pictures, many show a day spent out of doors. Planting a garden is fun but what we really enjoy this time of year is hiking around the ranch hunting for wildflowers. We stop and pull out our journals to draw the flowers, identify them, and write down the date and place that the flowers are found. It’s something I learned from my grandmother in California and I hope my girls carry on the tradition. I truly enjoy the wild “garden” of the ranch, because it requires nothing from me - no watering, weeding, or planning.

Wildflower Journaling Photo: Jacelyn Downey

Wildflower Journal example: http://harringtonharmonies.com/2014/08/wildflower-nature-study.html

That said, each year right around Mother’s Day, we do start our edible garden. Gardening in Wyoming is like throwing seeds into the wind and hoping they’ll grow. Sometimes it works. I never know what to expect. Hail, grasshoppers, unstoppable weeds, and pure neglect have all won the battle some years. Nevertheless, every summer I find my daughters in the garden eating carrots that they’ve pulled up from the ground (dirt and all) and I’m never really sure how many cherry tomatoes have ripened because they disappear mysteriously! Plus, it feels so good to eat a salad made from lettuce you’ve grown. It’s these memories that keep me determined to garden, however imperfect. There isn’t a more delicious sense of accomplishment.

Growing like weeds. Photo: Jacelyn Downey
Garden Bounty Photo: Jacelyn Downey
Bumper Crop Photo: Jacelyn Downey

Gardening with children article: http://www.parenting.com/article/gardening-kids

Which brings me to a new journey. This year, we are going to double down on our home landscaping – geared towards pollinators. We’ve just semi-finished our home remodel and that means it’s time to finally do something about the yard. Living on a ranch, it’s easy to put it off. I’ve got a large, natural landscape that is wildlife friendly, right? Well, I enjoy having guests come to the ranch so we can provide them with a great place to visit, good food, plenty to drink, and a place to rest their heads. Looking around my yard, I see a big opportunity to provide a better place to visit for my pollinator friends.

So wish us luck! The girls have been looking through the High Country Gardens Catalog to pick out their favorite plants and as per usual, my husband is shaking his head wondering how much work this means for him. Me, I’m just happy that we’ll be outside together. There isn’t a better Mother’s Day present than that.

Easy pollinator garden kit: http://www.highcountrygardens.com/pre-planned-gardens/pollinator-paradise-pre-planned-garden

Jacelyn Downey is a Community Naturalist for Audubon Rockies and hopes to spend more time outside hunting for wildflowers with her family this spring. You can reach her at jdowney@audubon.org or 307-756-3941.

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