Sanctuary Steward: Gary Schroeder
Wild Wind Ranch is a 50-acre horse ranch located in Douglas County, CO, at the northern-most edge of the Black Forest bioregion at an elevation of approximately 6,400 feet. We purchased the land about 10 years ago, before Douglas County became the fastest growing county in the US. We built our home on the land six years ago and began raising sport horses. Despite the area’s rapidly growing population, our ranch is frequently visited by mule deer, coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, porcupine and an occasional elk or pronghorn. Overhead, hawks and turkey vultures can be spotted circling for hours above the caprock cliffs that extend north to the edge of our property.
My interest in the area’s natural heritage was heightened several years ago when I trained as a volunteer naturalist at nearby Castlewood Canyon State Park. I developed a particular interest in the medicinal plants of the area after I became a student in Tammi Hartung’s Herbal Traditions Apprenticeship Program. As a part of my studies, I began to familiarize myself with the medicinal plants found in the local bioregion, and this year I began offering medicinal plant hikes in Castlewood Canyon as a part of the Park’s public education program.
Last spring, my wife Lynne and I selected two separate pieces of land totaling 15 acres to be designated as Sanctuary land. The Sanctuary represents a diverse mix of grassland, shrubland and riparian ecosystems. The medicinal plants identified so far include: Bee Balm, Cottonwood, Dogbane, Gambel Oak, Goldenrod, Grindelia, Horsetail, Juniper, Mountain Mahogany, Mullein, Penstemon, Pussy Toes, Prickly Pear, Prickly Lettuce, Red Clover, Sage, Wild Geranium, Wild Plum, Wild Rose, Willow, Yarrow and Yucca. Future plans include the introduction of Blue Cohosh, Echinacea, Gentian, Hawthorn, Oregon Grape and Wild Yam. My ten-year-old daughter Mikayla, who often assists me with harvesting and tincturing the medicinal plants from our garden is very excited about helping develop a medicine trail through the Sanctuary.
We plan to erect a yurt in the Sanctuary to be used for educational activities. With the rapid population growth that continues in Douglas County and the accompanying loss of plant and animal habitat, we feel particularly privileged to be able to preserve this modest piece of land with its wealth of medicinal plants, and are excited about becoming part of the ever-growing and increasingly important UpS Botanical Sanctuary Network.