Colorado Four O’clock (Mirabilis multoflora)

Colorado Four O’clock is one of my prettiest wildflowers. It usually starts by July, but it’s bloom season is tied to my summer monsoons, which were late this year.

Colorado Four O'clock

Colorado Four O’clock

This is not my biggest or prettiest Colorado Four O’clock, but it is the first to bloom this year.  I have collected seed all four years and have dozens of these now, all children one against my front fence.  When it starts blooming, I will post a photo, it is my oldest and largest one.

The purple petals are not flowers, but sepals fused together.  It is generally pollinated by our hawkmoths.

I have seen conflicting information on Four O’clock’s cold hardiness, but guess zones 4-8/10.  Mine are in zone 5/6.  It will survive 10 to 30 inches of rain per year, give it good drainage.  The one in the photo is on about a 70 degree slope at 12 inches annual rainfall.  Not a high maintenance plant.

I would not call it an edible, although First Americans ground roots into flour and added it to their bread.  It is an appetite suppressant and was used during lean times to reduce hunger.

It does have a number of medicinal uses, mostly from tthe root but also the seed and leaves.

The root is an entheogen, and causes visions.  The root is chewed and the liquid swallowed.

The root powder is also antiviral and antifungal, and used to ttreat herpes, influenza, upper respiratory infections, hepatitis, yeast and candida.  I did not find dosages, but root infusions and tinctures were mentioned.

A root decoction can be used to treat wounds and skin diseases, and was used on leprosy.

Colorado Four O’clock is a fairly strong medicinal herb that I don’t suggest using without experienced direction.  The seeds, at least, can cause abortion so pregnant women should avoid this plant.

While outside I dug another bucket of Iris and will prepare more Orris Root for drying.  I will dig one of the Colorado Four O’clock plants and dry the root for my pharmacopeia.


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Back to Orris Root

Harvested considerably more Iris germanica root today, and left enough roots on each set of leaves for an increase. I peeled and grated them and left them open on a flat plate to dry. The first batch is already dry to touch.

Although I will increase my iris bed this way, note that they will not be as drought tolerant as larger rhizomes. They will need a little babying in my dry climate.  In Texas or Seattle I would just put them back in the ground for winter root growth.

For my dry mountain garden, I potted them up in two 12 inch pots that will get supplemental water this year. I have one more 12 inch pot and will fill it also.  These small pieces will likely take 3 years to fully recover here, so I plan to leave all 3 pots in the greenroom this winter to get an edge on root replacement, then replant in the spring.

Any small rhizomes I process after filling a third 12 inch pot will be put back in the raised stone bed.

My goal is to process about 1/3 of the 900 plants.  Unless I get bored with processing Orris Root or too busy with other chores.  At the moment, it seems perfectly feasible.  I am delighted at the prospect of abundance in my food forest.

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Harvest, Horehound (Marrubium vulgaris)

In a morning lull from my daily thunderstorms, I went out to collect Horehound seeds. I am also collecting leaves from one shaded plant that is now blooming.



I like collecting in a five gallon bucket.  Loose, it is not close to 5 gallons of material,  but will give me plenty of leaves and flowers to dry and plenty of seed to save for next year.  Perennial Horehound will come back next year too.

Horehound Leaves

Horehound Leaves

Just a smaller bowl of leaves and flowers to dry.  If I wanted a lot of intense product, I would have collected earlier in the year.  I got busy with rock beds and didn’t get er done.  I decided some Horehound is better than no Horehound.

Horehound Seeds

This includes the chaff, but seeds are already dropping to the bottom of the bowl.  I will give it a few days then store the seeds in a small paper envelope.

I also dug more Iris rhizomes and will process the roots for Orris Root.  The first batch is air drying.

My pharmacopeia is small but will grow.


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Preparing Orris Root for Perfumes

Orris root used in many perfumes is the dried rhizome of German Bearded Iris (Iris germanica).

German Bearded Iris

German Bearded Iris

This is a photo of mine blooming in the spring.

I promised my neighbor about 30 rhizomes so today I dug them for her to transplant to her garden.  Iris are easy to share since they multiply easily from even small pieces of rhizome.  I gave a friend in Albuquerque a few of these and they have outgrown their space.

Everything I have read about processing Iris rhizomes into Orris Root for perfumes has gone on about how labor consuming and time intensive the process is, so I just dug up a couple for processing.  This is an experiment!

German Bearded Iris roots

German Bearded Iris roots

I removed the tops with a bit of rhizome on each one and expect all to regenerate. This wasn’t strictly necessary because my original 300 rhizomes are about 900 already.  I gave about 30 to my neighbor, still a lot!  Then again, I have 5 acres, an Orris Root crop is a good thing.

Roots Ready for Processing

Roots Ready for Processing

Here are the first roots ready for processing and drying.  A small first test batch.


As you can see, I used a standard vegetable peeler to remove the skin.  At this point I can set the roots aside for 3 to 5 years for drying.  They have no smell, but I am assured I will know when they are fully dry and ready by the amazing scent.

Grated Orris Root

Grated Orris Root

Other information suggested thin slices or grating to speed up the process, suggesting 1 to 2 years for drying.  I decided to take the extra step and grate the roots for quicker drying.  I will also dry some roots in slices to check the difference in end product one of these years.

Clearly I have not prepared much root this afternoon.  Even so, I don’t see it as particularly onerous.  Waiting years for the final product is almost unAmerican, but I am not concerned much about that.  I admit that Orris Root is part of all my favorite perfumes, and it is free-to-me for a small effort.  Once it is deliciously scented, I will steam distill it to a thick orris butter.  Then I am good to go.

Orris Root doubles as a fixative for other scents as well and some call it a heart note, others a base note.  I will now get to explore those for myself.

If my care to leave enough roots to regenerate more Iris plants is successful, I now have an endless cycle of beautiful Iris blooms and perfume components.  Its all good.

I will process more this month and get my dream of making my own perfume moving forward, baby steps at a time.


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Fall Corn?

My painted mountain corn produced so fast that I decided to try a fall crop.  It is cooling off at night and they are barely up, so I figured it for a no go.

Fall Corn

Fall Corn

This morning two of them appear to be thinking about setting corn at only one foot.  If I get fall corn I will save every seed for next year.  How sweet if I could double crop corn at 7500 feet.

I love playing in the garden.

My bbolivar beans already cropped and I replanted.  They are up too.  Spring came early this year so my short season crops came in early.  Be nice if I get late season beans, too.

Beans and turnips

Beans and turnips

These beans are planted where I grew turnips in the spring.  I left two golden ball turnips in place hoping for seed.  You can see the new bean plants.  I hope this second round also produces beans.

I still have thunderstorms.  Not as much rain as would be appropriate with so much lightening and thunder, but enough to water everything.


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Mouse Trap

Little Guy has been such a good mouser since he moved in that I stopped catching mice outside the house. A few days ago I saw a mouse run behind the stove.

Oh no, not having that.

I do not use poison, but water is the most effective lure I have used.

Water Trap

Water Trap

Five is more than I have caught at any one time, tells me I am overrun with mice.

I caught a lizard yesterday, darn.

I fill the bucket 1/3 full of water and butt it up against the house wall.  The mice come for the water and can’t get out.  I feel mean, but no toxins.

It has rained so much I wasn’t sure it would work, but there is the evidence.  I reset the trap, and will likely stop there.  I threw the bodies in the woods for others to eat, used the water on a shrub, and used fresh rainwater in the trap.

As it gets cold, Little Guy should keep my house free of mice again.  One little Papillon can only do so much.


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Plain Jane

I have not worked outside much lately. Brutal heat first, then daily thunderstorms that have me not want to be outside on the hill.  Hopefully that will settle down in a few days.

I have taken the opportunity to go through my possessions and simplify.

For a non shopper (except books) I have a lot of unnecessary stuff. The neighborhood is waiting for decent weather for a combined garage sale, and we are all going through sorting out the accumulation.

A gal in Seattle who was a manic clothes shopper loaded me up with boxes of clothes just as I moved to New Mexico. Size okay but our taste in clothes is so far off that I have never worn the stuff, no matter how well made. I am a plain plain plain and she is a flaming flamboyant. She would so like me to get flamboyant but I like plain… redhead or not.

I still have bric-a-brac from my good friend in Texas who covered every surface and every wall with fiddly little cute items I would never enjoy cleaning, and which over the years she gifted to me.  They are cute but I am so very plain plain plain… in comparison.

Now my older neighbor has started bringing me things….

I have my final cabin design and the small size means I will need to size down again.  I am delighted with it and excited to get started building, hopefully in the spring.  I have more lovely things than will fit inside, so here I am, sorting and downsizing.  I do love beautiful things but just like them spaced farther apart.

As small as my home will be, I included a Japanese style art display niche in the bedroom.  Simple and satisfying for me.

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