Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fifty Acres and a Fool: Weeds

Weeds have become my mortal enemy.

This comes as a complete surprise to me. For decades I have been able to gaze upon a field of weeds with absolutely no compunction to do anything about them. Of course, that was before they were my fields and my weeds.

In my pre-weed days, the only weeds I really paid any attention to were dandelions in my suburban lawn. And even then I was far from the herbicidal maniac that the Lawn Nazis around me were.

But times have changed. They began changing when I began my (til now) eight year war with Bush Honeysuckle. Bush Honeysuckle is not technically a weed – it’s an invasive bush. But something that’s growing where I don’t want it growing is – in my agricultural book – a weed. And Bush Honeysuckle fits that description.

For years now I’ve been going into the woods and chainsawing it down, pushing it over with the front loader on the tractor, wrapping chain around it and pulling it out by roots, and, finally, as a last resort, spraying it with herbicide. I am finally turning the tide and now, where there was once nothing but an infestation of Bush Honeysuckle, there are now tree seedlings pushing their way skyward and wildflowers sprouting. Yay! There’s still massive amounts of Bush Honeysuckle to get rid of, but progress is being made.

I hate the stuff. It’s evil. You know it’s evil because it’s soooo pretty at first glance. Broad green leaves, pretty white flowers, yummy looking red berries. The birds and bees and other critters love it. And help it take over.

It always makes me think of what pretty things I let into my life – which then take over. Well, let’s not go there!!

The Bush Honeysuckle is getting a little bit of break right now while I tackle the things most people think of when they think of weeds – dandelion, Canadian thistle, and so forth. I’m battling them now because we just planted 8 acres or so of prairie – warm season grasses (WSG) and wildflowers (forbs – don’t you love the lingo?). And the WSG and forbs will not stand a chance again thistle and burdock and common purslane and hairy nightshade (sounds like a baddie in a cheap detective thriller!) and turf grasses and …

It seems that, as hearty as the prairie once was around here, until we burned it down, plowed it under, and cropped over it, it’s just as hard to reestablish it. I should know, I’ve been trying for six years and have a pretty thin stand of big bluestem and little blue stem for my efforts. The weeds, despite mowing and spraying with prairie stock friendly herbicide, are persistent. They just keep coming back, despite my efforts to eradicate them.

So this year, after doing the planned prairie burn, I decided to replant the whole prairie. I mowed everything level. Then I used a selective herbicide (avoiding the stands of WSG that I wanted keep). Then Dan “Woody” Wood, from Pheasants Forever, came out and helped me replant (actually he did much of the work – I just rode on the back of the seeder and kept the seed stirred and coming out the seeder).

Then I “hit it” (farmer talk) again with a prairie friendly herbicide. Then, after the herbicide did its work, I mowed the few struggling weed-y survivors.

But walking the freshly planted prairie last evening, I noticed a whole “crop” of pokeberry. So tonight, I’ll be walking the prairie in an effort get rid of it.

Field weeds seem to always be popping up in my soul’s field, too. I plant good seed but then, when the seed sprouts, forget to cultivate the seedlings, weed around them, and soon the pretty field is a huge weed patch.

Hmmm, seems Jesus once told a story about sowing seeds and weeds.

Fortunately, as regards the field weeds, a little spot herbicide (and a long walk) and they will be gone and the WSG and forbs will have access to the sunlight and soil nutrients they need. Unfortunately, for my soul, there is no herbicide … it needs constant cultivation by hand.

I need to get to it.

-- Brent

PS Here's Woody planting one of the hillsides. Just slightly dangerous!

1 comment:

Catharine Phillips said...

New thoughts. Thank you! Jesus used weeds in a number of ways. Obviously it will not work for your patch to let the prairie plants and weeds grow together.
I*m with you on the honeysuckle. Here in western Illinois suburbia we have to be just as diligent uprooting the mulberry trees (which the birds also love).