Weeds

What is a weed anyway? For many people, a weed is anything that is not the specific grass they deem to be a part of the perfect lawn. I see weeds a little differently. To me a weed is a plant that offers no benefit. Shortly after I moved into my last home, I was visited by a lawn care specialist who offered to treat my “lawn” to get rid of the weeds. He didn’t like my response: “If its green and it doesn’t hurt when I walk on it, then it is the “lawn” “.

I grew up in a place where a lawn doesn’t consist of a specific type of grass. It is grass and clover and dandelions and a dozen other things I can’t even name. As kids we ran around barefoot and appreciated the softness of the Dutch White Clover (except when it was flowering and bees favored it) and we loved to pick the Dandelion puffs and blow them, making a wish as we did.

Since we moved to our homestead, I have been trying to learn about the weeds that grow here. Rather than pull plants indiscriminately, just because they don’t look like a grass, I try to find out what they are and whether they hold any value to us. Dandelions are valued here – and not just because of their puffballs! The poultry, sheep and goats devour them voraciously, obtaining important nutrients from them. Compass plants, considered by most to be a pest, are also a favorite of all the animals. Clover, Plantain, Knotweed and Burdock likewise grow here naturally and may be “weeds” but have value to me for the nutritional benefit to the animals who ultimately provide us with food.

On the other hand, there are some we have discovered that have no value to us whatsoever. Typically these are plants the animals will not eat and that, given a chance, will multiply and take over. Ragweed grows rampant here but worse, Western Ragweed, native to this area, has a firm hold and is spreading despite our efforts to contain it. We have thistles in our back pasture – fewer this year than last – and Buffalo Bur (also known as Sand Bur) will also grow unchecked if given a chance.

Yesterday I decided it was time to mow a path around the perimeter of our pasture, as a fire-break but also a chance for me to check on the state of our pasture grasses that will soon become hay. While doing so, I discovered a small area taken over by Buffalo Burs. Despite the pretty yellow flowers, it was NOT a pretty sight. This morning BOF and I set about removing them and fortunately were able to completely rid the area of Buffalo Bur in only a couple of hours – and without serious injury. You see, Buffalo Bur covers itself – stem, leaves and even the flower buds – with spiny thorns that make it painful to remove. On a more positive note, I’ve discovered that Potato Bugs and Blister Beetles both love Buffalo Bur and I would far rather they focus on eating it than my potatoes.

Before we started work:

Before - Buffalo Bur covers this mound

Before – Buffalo Bur covers this mound

And after a couple of hours of painful labor:

After - the mound cleared of Buffalo Bur

After – the mound cleared of Buffalo Bur

Because this stand of Buffalo Bur had a lot of Potato Bug/Beetle and Blister Beetle activity, I briefly considered leaving them there as “traps”.  However given that the plants were flowering (and attracting local bees that I want to encourage to my vegetable garden instead), I decided to remove the Buffalo Bur and in doing so, hopefully reduce the local population of bad bugs, before they migrate right on over to the veggie garden.

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