"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Philosopher's Bane

Today I visited the noxious weed board of our county with a sample of a particularly annoying weed that is rapidly proliferating on my land. It starts out very small and feathery, innocent-looking, with a sharp, half-familiar, not unpleasant smell. But pretty soon it is seven feet tall, growing in thick hedges, stinking to high heaven with a rank, foul odor, and giving me hives whenever I brush against it. The goats, naturally enough, won't touch the stuff, with the result that it is spreading. 

I walked into the office of the noxious weed board with a wand of it in my hand, and the lady who met me visibly blanched. "Ooh, put that in the trash. Here, wash your hands." Turns out I have poison hemlock flourishing all over my pasture. Yes, the same plant that killed Socrates. It's a potent nuerotoxin, and it looks just like wild carrot (though it doesn't smell like it. I can't imagine anyone taking a whiff and deciding to eat it for lunch.). Madame weed board said "you just go to sleep, and never wake up."

It probably poses no risks to my goats, since they don't eat it, and it probably poses little risk to my kids, since it's stinky and sticky, but it is crowding out grass and other good forage that my goats need. The only good thing I heard about it is that it only spreads by seed dispersal, not by rhizomes or cuttings falling on the ground or anything else, so if I hurry, I can lop all the flowering tops off before they go to seed and maybe put a dent in it this year.

I went directly from the weed board to the farm store and bought a machete.


Rowan said...

Hey mom. Actually, I think what the noxious weed woman was saying was that HEMLOCK killed socrates, not this specific STRAIN of hemlock. There are several varieties, all found around here, and all deadly. (I've become interested in poisonous plants lately.)
There's the tree Hemlock, which was the strain that actually killed hemlock. There's Giant Hogweed, which is what we have. And there's Water Hemlock, which as the name implies, grows in wetlands and bogs right at the edge of standing water. This last variety is my personal favorite, as it's flowers are larger than in the other types of hemlock, and it doesn't smell so bad.
Did you know hemlock is one of the ingredients in traditional witch's flying potions? These potions induce a psychedelic sleep in which the witch often flies. The potions, thankfully, stopped being made with the coming of witch prosecution. I guess one good thing came of that, eh?
Your daughter, Bryony. (yes, I'm going to start using this name a lot more often.)