A fly in the ointment

Mine enemy has a name: Thistle

May 26, 2009

Summer is still weeks away, but the dog days are at hand here in Texas with temperatures around 95 today. We find ourselves settling into a peaceful routine nearly one year into our journey. Our children are marching purposefully into their worlds, the sheep and chickens are healthy in the back pasture and the garden is bursting with young tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and herbs. And yet there is a fly in the ointment, an irritating mote on this otherwise uplifting canvas.

Mine enemy has a name, and it is thistle. Perhaps it’s musk thistle, perhaps Canada thistle, we’re not quite sure. Take a look at the photo and let us know. Do not be deceived by the welcoming violet hue of the flower. It masks the plant’s spiny leaves and stem. These thistles are invasive, noxious weeds.  Once they move into an area they quickly multiply thanks to the fact that each plant produces more than 10,000 seeds! What’s more, its seeds can remain viable in the ground for a decade. Where they spread, livestock (like our sheeply contingent) turn away from the nearby sweet grasses.

We’re not sure why we have been blessed by these weeds. There do not seem to be many on our neighbors’ properties, most of which support cattle or horses. The previous owners at Sun and Wind Farm carried a herd of about 50 goats, so perhaps there’s a clue there. Thus far, we’ve “treated” the thistles with a liberal dose of Bush Hog. We’ve read a few publications that recommend a combination of manual (i.e., death by mowing) and chemical methods. This will put to a test our commitment to non-chemical management of our land. One way or another, we will prevail.


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