My mother and father-in-laws, Win and Mike, live on a beautiful and rugged piece of land on Colorado’s Front Range known as Table Rock Ranch. For over 25 years, Win and Mike have raised a small herd of Scottish Highland beef cattle on the 85-acre property using a largely pastured, grass-fed approach. The ranch lies on the high plains about 15 miles as the crow flies from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and at about 7,300 feet elevation. The ranch is named for a mesa on part of the property called Table Rock, which is an easily-recognizable landmark in the area and which is an important Native American site. There is an authentic Native American medicine wheel on top of the mesa, which is still visited occasionally by members of the Ute nation. Table Rock was previously the resting place of a Native American holy man (who was exhumed in the 20th century), and may still be home to some as-yet unconfirmed Native American grave sites.
My husband and I took a walk one day in early summer up to the top of a mesa on his parents’ land near Colorado Springs, Colorado called Table Rock. The environment on top of the mesa is very dry, very rocky, and very windy, and as a result much of the flora hugs the ground closely. It is the first place on the ~80-acre parcel of land to dry out in the summer. There are small caves and splits in the rock at the top that create wildlife habitat and microclimates. A lot of wildlife calls Table Rock home, including mountain lions, bats, deer, foxes, raccoons, hawks, and falcons. In a permaculture design, the marginal land on top of Table Rock and its steep sides would be best left to nature as Zone 5.
Here is a sampling of some of the plants found on Table Rock:
Stonecrop (Sedum stenopetalum):
One of the best ways to gather information about what grows in your area is to speak with longtime residents who know the whims of the climate and who have gardened in your area for many years. My father-in-law, Mike, has lived and gardened at 7,300’ elevation near Colorado Springs, Colorado for over 25 years. As we toured his annual garden plot on the summer solstice, he shared some of his observations and notes on growing vegetables on the high plains of eastern Colorado.