Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hell's a-poppin'

I knew that all the snow and rain that blessed this desert land over the winter could make for a hellish spring.

I hate it when I'm right.

Hank and I spotted the first flowering locoweed 15 days ago, just outside our fenceline. Since then, I've combed the pasture fully expecting to find lots more, but I've pulled just a handful of the pretty purple, highly toxic variety. It's the too-many-acres-to-pull, yet-to-flower, similar-looking sprouts that I'm worried about now. Are they among the harmful species of locoweed?

I took some samples to the local soil and water conservation office on Monday. I heard a lot of "hmmm..." and "interesting!" but nothing definitive. Then I e-mailed pictures to the county extension agent and, so far, have heard alot of nothing.

So what's a paranoid rancher-woman concerned for the life of her equines to do while she waits to find out what evil lurks in her pasture? Why, build a fence to separate them from the suspicious sprouts, of course. Starting at 6 a.m. Without the benefit of coffee. After a sleepless night spent trying to devise a workable plan. That she could accomplish by herself.

"I'll just dismantle the round pen, use the 17 panels to build a 200-foot fence between here and there, and pound in a bunch of t-posts to support it. Piece of cake!"

George and Alan were of tremendous help, stirring up the dust...

...and playing ring around the corral panel.

Not one to be left out, Hank had to show he could be an ass as well and stand in the way of progress.

Deets got in on the act and tested the panels to make sure they were balanced properly on the back of the Ranger.

Overall, the temporary fence project was going quite well until I forgot I was moving a 12' wide load through a 10' opening.

Ooops. Sometimes I needs supervision.

But the fence is now up. Much to the boys' dismay, they have a mere 5 acres to graze, but it's better than nothing. I hope to have a definitive answer on whether the devil is dancing in the pasture sometime this week. If he is, I'm not sure what in the hell I'm going to do. But I'm not going to worry about that today. I'll worry about that tomorrow. Guess which audiobook I listened to while building the fence.


  1. Two thumbs up to you Carson for overcoming yet another obstacle at 7MSN!

    Pretty scary when the folks who should know about the locoweed are doing the "hmmmm ..." or giving no replies. I guess you thought "What in the world!?!?!" when those panels fell off the Ranger!

    Your audiobook???? Lonesome Dove!

  2. Linda,
    Your new header photo is too sweet. The boys are so enamored with one another.

    Sounds like you have a real quandary on your hands! Plenty of help though, just not the kind you would like. I swear, with all that work I don't know how you even find the time to blog!

  3. George and Alan were not "stirring up the dust." They were loosening the soil to make pounding in stakes easier. :-)

    Re: the ten foot/twelve foot thing
    You're so dang capable all the's comforting to me to know you do something dumb once in a while. Welcome to my world.
    ..although I do feel sorry for the extra work it made for you.

    Overall: Good Work, Carson!
    (especially because of the "no coffee" part!)

    I hope there's some natural way to kill off those hellish things, although Google doesn't seem to offer much hope.

  4. That stinks. It's a lot of work, hope you find out what those weeds are. Glad to see you had lots of help with this project.

  5. Ha-ha. Moving 12' through a 10' opening sounds like something I might be capable of, too!

    Would roundup kill the devil plants, or are there just too many of them? (If you go that route, do check with your vet just to be sure it's okay.)

    Good luck with your war!

  6. Good job. You are a good Mama to the boys.

  7. Sounds like it's time for the shovel and a bucket to dig up those mysterious plants. Be sure to have coffee with you when you do. Glad you have the boys rounded up to protect them.

  8. We do dumb stuff all the time out here in the pecan orchard. The difference between us is that you stop to take a photo and laugh at yourself! You are always an inspiration.

    I see that you are having trouble with spammers, too. A single malicious person who has obtained several Blogger identities all in the same day has been making my life miserable to the point where I have temporarily made my blog private. I sent out invitations to blogger friends, but I didn't have email addresses for everyone. Not sure if the one I used for you worked.

    Again, you are an inspiration, because I see that you just keep blogging along. Once I get over my fear of hate mail, I plan to go public again.

  9. Such a helpful crew you have. Glad to see Deets is on the job, and love the dancing burro bellies!

  10. I loved your 10'/12' picture. It is so great when people can laugh at themselves....and share that with those of us who can nod our heads and say, 'Yup, been there, done that'! My tendency is to get mad...I'll have to remember to find the humor in things like that!

    I also struggle with the locoweed ID thing. The problem seems to be that there are several locoweeds and other wannabe's! According to my National Audubon Society wildflower book, "Oxytropis lambertii" or Purple Locoweed, is "one of the most dangerously poisonous plants on the western ranges, this species is lethally toxic to all kinds of livestock." The book goes on to say that the single feature that distinguishes this species from other "Oxytropis" is that the hairs are "attached by their middle to a short stalk forming a miniature teeter-totter, a feature seen only with a lens and even then sometimes escaping notice."

    The book goes on to talk about "Oxytropis sericea" or White Locoweed, which confusingly can sometimes be purple, perhaps because of hybridization with Purple Locoweed. "The hairs on the hybrid's leaves are attached by the base rather than by a bisecting stalk." The book says that the white locoweed has sometimes been implicated in poisoning. Again, that may be due to hybridization.

    I have a brochure entitled, "Colorado's Poisonous Menace" that lists weeds that are poisonous to horses. This brochure lists three locoweeds. The two that I've mentioned as well as Wooly Locoweed ("Astragalus mollissiums"). I find it interesting that it isn't in the same family! The wooly locoweed looks silvery-blue because of the white hairs on its leaves.

    I've been attacking anything that looks like locoweed. I started a few weeks ago when things first began to green up. Locoweed is one of the first things to turn green, which is one of the reasons animals mess with it.

    I've also read that if there is adequate forage, the horses won't mess with the locoweed. The folks who live behind us pastured 3 horses on 3 acres all summer. They did very little supplemental feeding. The pasture was full of locoweed. All of their horses survived. So, when I get to fretting over it, I think about them and consider that maybe my beasts (or at least their beasts) are smarter than I give them credit for being!

    1. The neighbors horses might appear fine ( you say they survived ) until someone tries to halter one and lead it around. The brain damage could occur before any other symptoms appear, but might only be noticeable when the horses are handled.

  11. I am always so impressed with your can do attitude. I hope it turns out there is less of a problem than you think, those toxic plants are sooo scary and often a pain in the ass to ever get ahead of.

  12. Remind me again what the locoweed does...? What a drag! Hopefully, all that snow & rain means the boys will get some yummy sweet grass to nibble on, as well.

    I do hope you're taking a well-earned day off today.

  13. Man - I hate it when that 12ft vs 10ft thang happens! I'm with C in WI - roundup will kill anything! I have no doubt you'll overcome any obstacles for your boyz!

  14. You are an inspiration! You do all this by yourself and it gives me no excuses for not doing something when I don't have help.

    Anyways, I wonder if NMSU Ag Department may be able to help with the locoweed questions? Here is their webpage and they do have emails connected with each of their special initiatives.

  15. Wow - just reading your blog makes me tired and ready for a nap!

    And, of course you were listening to Scarlett in Gone With the Wind...

    Nancy in Iowa

  16. Hello again!
    You know I have a friend in Blog land who works in a Nevada 4-H extension office and I bet she could tell you what those "other" weeds are?? Those folks at her office have all kinds of literature on weeds both noxious and just pesky...I can really relate to "knowing" and wondering about the weed dilemma!!
    But the boys really just wanted to help loosen up the dirt, cuz desert dirt is harder to dig in!

  17. Been a follower of yours for only a short time. Glad I found you neighbor. I have spent way too much time looking at past posts to familiarize myself with the ranch so beuatiful), the animals (too wonderful) and you (work too hard and make me feel like a slacker but I like you anyway).
    Locoweed is horrible and if you have never lost an animal to it, then you can't imagine how scarey it really is. So I can and do relate. My grandparents had a spread in northern NM between Mora and LV and one year they lost 20 something head to the weed. So sad, such a cruel death. If my old bones could handle it, I'd come and help you out. Instead I'm gonna send some old broad bad juju to the locoweed plants and hope you get your answer right quick.
    Love that you make the middle Rio Grande valley (at least that's my guess) so beautiful to all of the outlanders who love your blog and some in staters too.
    Rock on cowgirl.

  18. Clairz, I can't believe you're having to go through the whole blogger identity theft thing. I did receive your invitation and accepted it - would hate to miss out on all the doings down south.

    Any clue on how the malicious person hacked you? It seemed like many of the spam comments I was receiving were coming through on old Skywatch posts – I thought the Mr. Linky thing might have had something to do with it but have no way of knowing.

  19. Carolynn, this is why I'm paranoid:
    ...altered gaits, aimless wanderings, sometimes in circles, impaired vision (to the extent they bump into things or fall into arroyos or other depressions) and erratic behavioral changes. They may appear listless or complacent, then wildly overreact to some unexpected event. “Locoed” horses are unsafe to ride or be around, and there is no antidote for the toxin.

    Angela, thanks for the link. My county extension agent is based out of the NMSU Ag department, and all the meaningful literature about locoweed seems to come out of NMSU. Now if they would just respond to my e-mails...

  20. I'm glad you enjoyed the humor in the picture - I chuckled as I put it together.

    Back to the weeds....
    I spray, pull, mutilate, mow....everything and anything! Last year I even painted Round-up on the locoweed so I could spare the grass growing near it. (I know that my neighbors think I've lost it!) If I don't have anything with me to help me pull a weed when I spot one, I will at least 'deflower' it to keep seeds from forming.
    I have been spot spraying with Round-up this spring, since our pasture is split into sections and I can keep the horses off of the weediest part. Last year we sprayed the entire pasture with 2,4-D. We're debating whether to do that again this year. It was really hard on the grass, which seemed to take forever to recover - but when it did, it was beautiful!
    I work on the pastures in fits and starts. If I have 30 minutes or so with nothing pressing, I'll walk out and mess with weeds or set traps for vermin.
    The hard thing for me is that I'm making all of these efforts, and the folks that I mentioned living behind us do nothing, and will have a zillion seeds to disperse in our direction!

  21. You go, Scarlett! You are indeed as strong, if not stronger, than they Steel Magnolias that are written about in literature. Hang in there and good luck with it all. Hopefully all your hard work last year pulling the stuff will make is less of menace this year!

  22. Hope you get good news and it isn't the same weed.. In Tennessee we have to worry about the yellow flower that covers pastures this time of year. Not poisonous but just takes over. We also have wild cherry trees that crop up. I got so mad at my husband last year because he cut one down and left it in the pasture. I read it was the dying leaves that were the most potent. So I stayed out till dark, hauling them off.
    Sorry about the scammer problem. I just posted away the other day and didn't this part. I was saying I am looking forward to 10 photography points.
    Oh and maybe the book was--Intruder in the Dust

  23. I can't imagine the job you're in for. Pulling the plants, one by one.
    The plant on the left looks definitely to be another kind of locoweed. Don't know about the one in the middle.

    Be sure and set up a nice massage for when you're done with this round of weed pulling.

  24. On the 10 foot vs 12 foot thing - you live in the New Mexico. You were just a victim of enchanted thinking.

    Somehow the boys will survive their time in "confinement." Shoot, most equines would love 5 acres. I know mine would.

    Let's hope it's just aspiring desert willow.

  25. And I finally got around to framing that header picture for my MIL this morning. It's been sitting on the DR table for weeks. I packed it in an enormous box of bubble pack and styrofoam peanuts, so I hope it makes it to FL intact. She is going to LOVE it!!

    You made me LOL trying to get the 12' load thru the10' gate. Sounds like something I'd do.

  26. Thank heavens we don't have locoweed here - we've got some other things but not that!

  27. Sorry, I do know my right from my left. I meant the plant on the right. Geez! :)


    The Poisonous Plant Research lab in Logan, Utah had a listing for these classes regarding locoweed. There are pdfs for you to look through that may be helpful.

  29. Hey Linda,

    You might want to contact NMSU DOPS and send them photos, like I did of some plants that I was suspicious of on my property a few weeks ago. Come to find out, they told me that I have Erodium cicutarium. Other names are redstem filaree and stork's bill geranium. It kind of looks a lot like that middle photo you have.

    Here's there information if you want to contact them:

    Jamshid Ashigh, Ph.D.
    Extension Weed
    Specialist/Assistant Professor
    Department of Extension Plant Sciences
    New Mexico State University
    P.O.Box 30003- MSC 3AE
    Las Cruces, NM 88003
    Phone: (575)646-2888
    Fax: (575)646-8085

    Good luck. I hope your find out it's not locoweed afterall.


  30. Lonesome Dove?
    I have read this over and over, perfection, and it never
    gets old.

  31. Been there, done that...not with the locoweed (yet) of course. But with the round pen panels. One of the big reason I got John Lyons panels because they were 10 footers and only 60 pounds each. Anyone could move them (that could vote) and I had to do that many a time to shuffle critters around while "fencing" was happening.

  32. I'm afraid that I'm just a porch gardner so not much help with identifying locoweed. However, if you are looking for a cheaper and more animal-friendly weed killer than Round Up, you might try straight Vinegar. Just spray it on the leaves of the weed in question (really soak it) and it should die in a day or so.

    Good Luck, though.

    And I'm dying to know what audio book you were listening to...

  33. last week our class held a similar discussion about this subject and you show something we haven't covered yet, thanks.

    - Kris