Anise Hyssop

I have containers planted with flowers, a cherry tomato, some mesclun, and herbs at the back porch door. The compositions are nothing formal. I fill the pots with mostly useful plants, with full knowledge that most of what is grown there will not be harvested, which is fine. They’re pretty to look at. The herbs, especially, are fragrant, their flowers beloved by bees and butterflies, and they tolerate my erratic watering. Once in awhile I use a leave or two, or find a ripe cherry tomato. Somehow, that’s deeply satisfying.

This year I looked for a tall plant to anchor a large pot. I found an anise hyssop at the nursery, which is not something that I was familiar with. I read the tag. Tall, purple blooms, edible. I brought it home. I lucked out. This member of the mint family tolerates drought, dissuades deer, and thrives despite my lack of consistent care. The leaves are delicious. I often pluck one to chew on as I go about my chores. It’s sweet, with a light licorice flavor.

The flowers are also edible. But I’m leaving them for the bees.

anise hyssop

Anise hyssop

Animal Training

There are many reasons why a person does animal training. There’s the basic, you have to get along, training: pay attention, no biting, no kicking, go where I need you to go. There’s the training for usefulness: herd the sheep, find the bad guy, guide the blind, pull this cart. There’s sport: flush the quail, go over the jump, catch the frisbee. Much of training is simply for fun: roll over, high five.

All training requires communication between the handler and the animal. Some people train for compliance: do what I say or there are serious consequences. I’d rather train for cooperation: this will be rewarding for both of us.

Although the study of behavior is a relatively new science, animal training has been going on for thousands of years. The Greek soldier, Xenophon, wrote about horsemanship in 400 BC, and the debate over how to work with the animals in our lives hasn’t stopped since then.

I don’t know what training methods Myrtle used with her horse Tony.

Myrtle and Tony


But I have a feeling that they were quite the team.


A Horse’s Attitude

For the last month, I’ve been helping two friends with their horse hunting. One woman is, after a fifteen-year partnership, retiring her dressage horse. The other friend is a novice who is looking for a beginner-safe horse to teach her how to ride, Although one is experienced and one is not, I’m looking for similar qualities in both of their mounts.

No horse is truly ‘bomb-proof” and “no spook.” Even Tonka startles and shies. (It turns out that he doesn’t have much experience with wetlands. A frog plunking into the muck as we ride by is cause for alarm!) Some horses are temperamentally naturally nervous, others, due to their histories, have learned to be fearful. Such horses can be trained to be calmer and less reactive, but neither of these riders are in a position to do that. They need sane horses that settle easily and are willing and trusting and pay attention to their riders.

I’m looking for an attitude like this.

western horse


I’m not a Western rider. I’m fascinated, but totally in the dark, about the gear on this horse. If anyone has insight about what work he is rigged up to do, and where he might have done it, please let me know.

Mid-Century Cat

Most of the photos in my collection are from the first two decades of the twentieth century, which is the era of history that I am most fascinated by. But, once in awhile, an image is so true to it’s time, and so aesthetically of the moment, that I can’t resist. This is one such photograph.

Goats on the wallpaper! An oh-so modern cabinet and on-trend bowl. The best part? A cat that matches, and, I do think she knows it.

mid-c cat

A Horse’s Person

I’ve been putting a lot of thought, time, and careful work into my relationship with Tonka. He arrived at the beginning of December but it took more than a month before he showed any signs that my attention meant something to him. I’m consistent in my behavior, kind and quiet in my actions, and I reward him for his cooperation. I balance the challenging training work in the ring with relaxed trail rides. I hand graze him. I brush him. I tell him that he is a good boy. (He likes this very much. The best horses are arrogant.) Now, when he sees me coming towards his paddock, he lifts his head. He comes to the gate. When I groom him, he stands in a calm contentment. When I ride him, he pays attention and tries to understand what I’m asking him to do. Tonka has decided that I’m his person.

I’m sure that’s what’s going on in this photograph, too. The woman is relaxed. She’s so confident in her horse that she hasn’t even picked up the reins. Her horse is turning around, checking on her. His ears are forward in a way that shows he’s eager but not fearful. He’s ready to go, but he’s waiting for her say so. A horse and person partnership beautiful thing.