When Birds (and other things) Come Back

THESE are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June,–
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

These are the days when the birds return. This morning, for the first time, our pasture looked like it was moving again–it was the birds hopping around looking for breakfast.


Brown is slowly being deposed by Green.

And, we have intruders. Weeds.

What to do with those plants we didn’t ask for–that thrive here–in the heat and drought and foot traffic–and that choke out plants we want to cultivate?

I’ve been thinking a lot about weeds lately–how best to manage them (I say manage because I can’t eradicate them, or I would).

Around here we fight the Yellow Tumble Mustard. When you think of the West, the tumbleweed is probably one of the first things you’d picture, and you’d be right. They THRIVE here.

(A Young Tumble Mustard Plant)


(A flowering Tumble Mustard).


When we first moved onto this property, we didn’t know what was what–we had to wait until it matured. And, since weeds grow fast, it didn’t take too long to realize we had a lovely yellow flower all over our pasture.

This stalky plant grew to be about 2 feet tall or higher and populated our entire acreage. As the horses would walk over it, it would brush against their bellies–implanting these lovely little bugs–who would jump from the tops of the plants to the belly of the horses–these bugs are called ticks. Have you heard of them?

I happen to hate ticks–how about you? They are disgusting, foul, blood-sucking, parasites—IIIICCCCKKKK! We had to burn them off the horses, cut down the foliage and keep the horses sprayed all year to prevent a reinfestation.

Now, as for the Tumble Mustard, it doesn’t kill horses, but ingesting too much could make a pregnant mare abort a foal, or cause the foal to be born with birth defects. That’s enough to make them my mortal enemy.

Tumble Mustard was imported from Europe–like many of our other noxious weeds–Yellow Star Thistle, for example–which is toxic and deadly to horses as well.

Weeds that thrive in certain regions–soils–to me, there seems a lot of symbolism there. I certainly have my weakness in life–like weeds–things that grow in my heart and choke out what good I’m trying to cultivate. It’s all part of being human and organic. We’re prone to tempers, jealousies, laziness, and getting our feelings hurt–among many other things.

Even Dickinson had her weeds. **cough, cough** I won’t name them…yet.

Gardening is the outward effort of what we do internally. We try to make our life a beautiful garden, but it takes constant weeding–and though some weeds may appear pretty themselves–we have to decide what is acceptable and not in our garden.

What weeds are growing in your garden?

2 responses to “When Birds (and other things) Come Back

  1. Oh, the ticks! What a horrible situation with your horses! Don’t forget, I vacation in Old Lyme, CT. Home to Lyme Disease, but even though we know ticks here back east, I can’t even imagine your nightmare with that weed.

    Our own backyard seems relatively tame compared to the travails you face – dandelions and crabgrass are our worst enemy. I like your last line – We have to decide what is acceptable and not in our gardens – literal and otherwise as some we cut back, and some we pull out from the root.

    • emilydickinsonsgarden

      The dreaded Lyme Disease–that is exactly what I was afraid of with the animals. I didn’t even realize horses got ticks until last year since I’d been lucky and mine had never had them. I bet you were worried for your kids!

      I wish we only had dandelions. We do deal with those in the yard area because there’s lots of water–well, I should say our last yard had lots of water and dandelions.

      The thistles and Mustard thrive in drought areas. And, until we get the pastures irrigated, they are in drought from the end of July until October. Not to mention, the horses are really, really hard on the ground. They over-graze and trample it unless you have a plan to keep them off. But we really like to see them running “free”.

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