Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's War

We have thistles in our pastures. I didn't really notice any thistles until last year. I'm not even sure where they came from because I have been watching for them to crop up from both our lands and our neighbor's lands. They just kind of exploded on the scene.

The thistle is the national symbol of Scotland and has rich historical value. The image of the thistle can be found on coins, flags and I guess is the name of several football teams (Wikipedia used the word "football".... but in Scotland....soccer maybe?)

Supposedly they have some medicinal uses (some medieval writers had thought it could help regrow hair on bald heads). And while I'm really interested in exploring the culinary uses of native plants, I haven't found a recipe for thistle that I'm ready to try. Around here thistle is very invasive. Don't let the pretty purple flower fool you. Thistles can monopolize a large area of pasture and kind of push out other pasture grasses in just a few years.

And though lots of animals will eat thistles, having thistles in your pasture is considered an indication of poorly cared for land. Plus, we don't have any animals that will eat a thistle right now (the chickens just turn their noses, umm, beaks, up at a thistle.)

So we have to get rid of the plant by hand before that pretty little purple head shows itself.  After blooming, the head looks very similar to a dandelion head....a giant puff ball of seed, waiting for a breeze to spread itself   ALL.   OVER.   EVERYWHERE.  So it can NEVER be allowed to go to seed. Swift action must be taken to lop off the purple heads before the seed can spread. It's a constant battle.

Though it seems insignificant, thistle removal is really an important insurance for the future health of our pastures. So part of a farm kid's responsibility is to be on relentless guard for a thistle invasion and to take hasty action if a plant has gone unnoticed. 

It's an all summer job.
 It takes persistance and resolve.
It is NOT insignificant. It is not thankless.
This year the job goes to Daniel, our tenacious 13 year old. 

Weed war: an important safeguard for our on-farm food supply.

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