July 16, 2008

The Ag Wars

Russian Olives seemed harmless enough when we saw them in someone else’s field. Fast-spreading, non-native water hogs, yes, but not threatening, at least not to us. Their undesirability only became completely clear when we took on our own acreage. They were all over along the creek! They were going to take over! We’d lose our riparian zone, maybe someday our pasture! The horses might get poked in the eye by one of the wicked thorns! (The thorns were something we didn’t contemplate when viewing the trees in other people’s pastures. What Commie fool brought these Russian invaders here anyway?) Thus began our first agricultural battle. Steve revved up the monster Stihl chain saw he bought a few years back. He seemed excited. After all, chain sawing was man’s work, and he hadn’t had a chance to use his masterly machine much since he’d gotten it. He began one weekend last fall, and chipped, or zipped, away at the trees a little at a time. Winter stopped him cold, so to speak. He started up again in February when the snow was still on the ground, whipping that chain saw around so vigorously he made his arm sore. He bought new safety glasses to ward off those vicious thorns. I cut off the smaller branches to clear the way for the heftier Stihl work.
After most of the trees were down, I asked IFA ag center how to prevent the trunks from sprouting. They recommended drilling holes and pouring in Roundup herbicide. I tried that before any leaves had come out, but in a couple of months we had sprouts anyway. After re-reading the Roundup directions, I believe I would have done better to wait until I saw the first sprouts. Roundup apparently only works when plants are actively growing. Duh. I wish the IFA guy had told me that.
Then came our attempt at burning the trunks and branches. No go, as of the designated burn days in May. Even with diesel thrown on for good measure, the stuff wouldn’t burn. Maybe by this fall, our next chance to burn, we’ll be able to start a Russian Olive fire.
Next, Foxtails. I noticed a few in the pasture and got worried because foxtail in hay can be harmful to horses (the dried seeds can get in their teeth and cause abscesses.) As spring wore on, the foxtails became more and more noticeable along the creek bank. Time for another pitched battle. I tried a torch attack first. I bought a little propane powered hand torch. The tails burned, alright, but the plants didn’t die. So, I went with Roundup-ing all the little suckers. That may or may not work. The plants are looking wilty, but they tend to do that anyway after the bloom. We’ll see.
Today, I attacked Russian knapweed. (Those Commie pigs snuck in here and sabotaged us again!) We have some growing along the fences and on the upper banks of the creek. I found out it can cause neurologic problems in horses ( a danger around every corner for these guys) if they eat large quantities. They don’t seem too fond of it, but still, I thought I should at least get rid of the stuff around the barn. Roundup came out again.
Then, there’s the sage along the fence, morning glories creeping in, and, Lord help us, the dandelions. Don’t even get me started on the veggie garden weeds.
It never ends. My guess is that we won’t win the ag wars. We won’t break even. We’ll just accept that some weeds and invasives are here to stay.

1 comment:

  1. I was just weeding last night! That roundup works a little too well on regular grass. I sprayed some along the border of the flower bed and the grass is all dead for about 3 inches all along the border. I thought that might prevent weeds from sprouting up in the flower bed, but they still do. It is a neverending battle, it is true. Although, the weeds sure aren't doing to well on the actual lawn!



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