Saturday, June 4, 2011

F***er weed

They're everywhere. And so aptly named by an 82-year-old gentleman farmer friend who recently toured our farm and has been farming in the Hudson Valley his whole life.

The roots
These weeds have the most intense root system I've ever seen, can grow without light, and apparently thrive in our acidic soil. I've seriously found the roots of these weeds at the bottom of compost piles and a plant has grown in the dark, for two feet, until it emerges on top of the pile. We find the roots everywhere in our sod when we dig beds. And now we find the plant everywhere in our vegetable beds, sprouting from roots we missed. You can't just pull them out; their roots are always so deep you have to dig them out. If you get lazy and just pull, I swear, three pop up for each one you've angrily teared away at.

What to do with these f'er weeds?
The weed

The other day we visited Glynwood Farm here in Putnam County. It is a non-profit farm whose mission is to help small- and mid-sized farmers to thrive. The farm has a long history, but its current non-profit status means that it is always willing to advise anyone on how to improve soil, raise livestock, build irrigation systems and so much more, all in the spirit of self-sufficiency. So we took a tour with the lead livestock farmer to learn about how they sustainably raise chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, cows and horses. What does livestock at Glynwood have to do with our weeds?

The livestock farmer has a nemesis as well: they are an invasive rose bush. You see them almost everywhere at Glynwood. He received a grant from the USDA to raise goats in an attempt to control this invasive weed (rather than excavate all of the land). Goats will eat anything, so he sets them out to graze in these fields of grass and the invasive rose bush. They can't take down the entire bush because the branches are actually quite thick and brambly. But they do eat the leaves and small twigs. And what he's found, and I've seen with my own eyes, is that in the fields where he set the goats out in last year, the rose bushes are much smaller and more compact than in fields where the goats have yet to graze. So after a harsh winter where everything dies back, these rose bushes grow back smaller the following spring after having been nibbled on the previous season.

It got me thinking...

We need animals. BUT, before we bite off more than we can chew, we did decide to cut back all of the f'er weeds we could see. They were starting to get little flowers, so it was almost getting too late (we don't want their seeds dropping anywhere). Maybe if we continually cut them this season, we'll start stunting their growth. Although I'd really just prefer them to cease to exist.

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