Going Organic in Barnstead, N.H.
Grazing Horses and Encouraging Natives is a Dream Come True
By Kathy Litchfield
For Patricia Sanborn, there is nothing like letting her sleek, black Arabian and Morab horses graze freely on the 90 acres she owns in Barnstead, N.H.
Graced with rolling pastures and hayfields, flowering native gardens and organic vegetables, Trish is careful when choosing what plants to encourage in the house gardens and along the pathways her horses enjoy on their way to the field.
“It’s very important not to have plants that they like to eat,” she laughed.
Trish partnered with five-year Accredited Organic Land Care Professional Paula Kovecses of TWIG (The Way It Grows) Horticultural Consulting to find the perfect plants. Together they chose a border called blue star amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana) which features stunning blue flowers in summer and a showy feathery foliage that Sanborn loves and her horses shun.
It has always been important to her to incorporate native plants and organic land care methods into the property that she and her husband were thrilled to discover just 12 years go in Barnstead, N.H. She believes in the interconnectedness of all life and aims to respect her partnership with nature as much as possible.
“We are so blessed to be here. It’s as close to heaven we can get,” said Trish, who offers a subtle energetic medicine called biofeedback through her business, Quantum Life Healing.
“I understand that there is a web, that we’re all interconnected and that we can’t just wipe out one species because we think it’s a problem. We have to make sure that we maintain the balance of life,” she said. “If you’ve got an unhealthy ground you won’t have birds taking care of the bugs. Since the planting I’ve done - I’ve increased all my natives around my vegetable gardens for instance – I have more and more birds every year. It’s vital to have a healthy environment in order to have the bugs that the birds will eat and to do that, you need native plants.”
While she was always interested in organic methods and never sprayed chemicals, herbicides or pesticides on her property, she shared that she had an epiphany after reading Douglas Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home.”
“It was around the time I was introduced to Paula (Kovecses). I had always liked pretty little native plants but after reading that book I realized it was necessary,” she said.
Trish’s sister introduced her to Kovecses at a lecture on invasive plants Kovecses was giving at a local college.
“That subject was near and dear to my heart and after I heard her speak I made an appointment for her to come out and talk to me about my land,” she said.
“Paula has been a true gem. She is so knowledgeable, and is aware of many plants I never would have known about, that are natives and that are doing well here. I don’t like traditional suburban landscaping that usually consists of a lot of lawn and a few alien species of ornamental shrubberies. They don’t provide food or shelter for animals. My thing is to co-exist with what’s already living here and whatever I do to the land, I want to be a benefit to everyone who lives here. My gardens are kind of different looking – they are wild looking and very natural and always improving. It’s like a tapestry that gets better every year.”
Among Trish’s favorite native plants are wild indigo, joe pye weed and Turtleheads. She also grows comfrey, marshmallow, motherwort, blue vervain and skullcap in her medicinal herb garden.
Trish is also planting swamp azalea, aronia and rhodis along the miles of riding trails through her woods. “It adds an element to the walk or trail ride, to see my garden in the woods slowly becoming even more beautiful,” she said.
Sometimes the battle with invasives becomes overwhelming. “They’re plentiful everywhere,” she sighed, “but that’s what we’re working on!”
Trish and her husband Peter enjoy eating organic food and make their own pet food to feed their two terrier dogs and three cats, formerly strays “who found us,” she said.
Last year the couple, married for 40 years with two grown sons, added chickens to their Black Horse Farm.
What Kovecses said she enjoys about working with Trish is that “she ‘gets it.’”
“She is open to increasing biodiversity by using native plants as much as possible and of course feeding her family. There is never any pressure when I visit Tricia, we have tea; we chat and brainstorm the best ideas for her landscape,” said Kovecses. “A full design was done for her property, and we have changed things a bit but we definitely keep the communication open and we seem to work well together. If we decide on a plant, if I can get it locally, that is how we try to do it. I believe she is not a ‘wanna be’ organic, she stands true to working with nature.”
Kovecses worked with Trish on a landscape design for the gardens surrounding their home, located in the center of the 90 acres. One perennial garden that is now coming into its own showcases flourishing goldenrod, joy pye weed, sneezeweed with red, orange and yellow flowers and black-eyed susans.
“It’s this crazy area of tall plants that looks nutty, but we love it,” she said, and frequently recommends Kovecses to friends and neighbors.