"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Aimee vs. the Weeds, round 118


The Bellingham Herald reports there have been four cases of human poisonings from the above plant this year. One fatality. The Herald reports that people mistake Hemlock for carrot or anise, and provides a detailed description to help people avoid making the mistake:


Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) was introduced to the U.S. from Europe as an ornamental plant. It has adapted to a wide range of climates and grows along roadsides and waterways, in pastures and playgrounds, in vacant lots and cracks in the pavement.

"This plant is very adaptable," Baldwin said.

Its stem is hollow, and the erect biennial is usually 4 to 6 feet tall.

The numerous flowers are white. Its leaves are lush, and look like a cross between Italian parsley and a fern. All parts of the plant are poisonous and affect the nervous system.

Initial symptoms could include a burning sensation in the mouth, nausea, confusion, and muscle paralysis.

Baldwin said the smooth and hairless stem with purple spots near the base are sure-fire indicators of poison hemlock.

It spreads by seed. When crushed, the plant has an unpleasant odor that has been describe as musky or smelling like mouse urine.


This smell is what makes me wonder how anyone could mistake it for carrot. Carrots smell good: Hemlock stinks like hell. Those of you with long memories will remember my years-long battle with this evil weed (Philosopher's Bane) . It's a battle I've been slowly losing, I'm afraid. Over the years, the Hemlock has been stealthily expanding it's range, while I have only been getting older and stiffer, which makes it much harder to stoop over and pull it's devilishly long taproot. Here's what I had to say about Hemlock back in 2008:


I really dislike this stuff. It's seriously poisonous, poisonous enough to pose a real hazard to animals and small children; it spreads like wildfire; it's hard, backaching work to try to pull it out by the roots, it stinks horribly and gives me hives, and if all that weren't enough, it grows in inaccessible places, like in the middle of thistle patches and along the fence line amidst the concrete rubble from the old barn. Every time I go wage a battle against the poison hemlock, I come back scratched, red, bumpy, itchy, and limping. I may eventually need to call in the cavalry: Roundup.


Well, I realize I have tied one hand behind my back here, but I have NOT called in the chemical cavalry, nor do I intend too. As far as I'm concerned, Monsanto is a far greater evil being than Hemlock is. Neither do I have the equipment (or the money to rent same) needed to disk the whole field, till, and plant new grass the way professionals do. No, it's just me, my aching back, and the pathetic old Murray lawnmower, which really deserves it's own label in this screed, considering the length and complexity of its ongoing saga.


In the last installment of the lawnmower saga, Homero fixed the machine for the umpteenth time and bought a new battery for it. That means it actually starts without having to drag a car battery and jumper cables out to wherever it was when it died last time. It means that I am actually capable of starting it myself and cutting the grass without asking my husband for his manly assistance.


Today I decided I would take the irascible machine out to the back pasture and try to mow as much Hemlock as I could. I would have to be extremely careful as there are still - despite several hours of really hard work with a crowbar - many large rocks imbedded in the ground and any one of them would kill the mower if I ran over it, not seeing it amongst the tall poisonous plants. Oh the many perils that exist in one small field! The idea, which is not exactly supported by experience, is that repeated mowing of the plants before they flower and go to seed will prevent them from spreading, at least.


Well, I managed to mow for a good thirty minutes, and I did mow down a large expanse of young hemlock plants. I felt pretty good. I felt pretty successful. I got ambitious and decided to go out to the other large patch of hemlock out by the fence. Now, this was dangerous because there is a steep drop-off right along the fenceline. The hemlock - along with stinging nettle and blackberry - grows down into this small ravine right up to the fence. Obviously, I was going to stay up on the plain and just get as much as I reasonably could get with the riding mower. The stuff down in the valley would have to be got with a weedeater.


Do you see where we are going here?


No no, not quite. I didn't drive right over the edge. But I did try to get too close and the mower started to slide sideways. I put on the brake, threw it in reverse, and tried to back up but I only backed up a half a foot or so before something stopped me. I thought that might be enough, so I put in the lowest forward gear and leaned my weight hard to the right and tried to go forward. No soap; the wheels spun and the machine started to tip sideways again.


After a couple more equally ineffective tries, I couldn't think of anything to do but kill the motor and hop off - right into a patch of stinging nettle, I might add - before the whole operation quite literally went south. Slightly scratched, with stinging ankles, and rather annoyed with myself, I stomped off to the shop to tell my husband I was going to need his manly assistance after all.



12 comments:

Olive said...

Keep at those young weeds Aimee, remember, one years seeds, seven years weeds. What a pity there aren't any animals to chew it down without a disaster occuring. I'm glad thats not one we have here in Oz.

AnyEdge said...

While I agree that chemical poisons aren't ideal, they have had massively beneficial applications. Specifically, the advent of no-plow farming. This has prevented washing probably a hundred billion tons of topsoil down the Mississippi river alone.

Evil comes in shades, dear sister. Unless you like low yields and farming in substrate, chemical pesticides are a grim but necessary choice.

AnyEdge said...

Please note that I stipulate that you probably already knew all that and far more than I do about further ramifications. But I felt a representation of philosophical breadth couldn't hurt.

Aimee said...

Without going into the pros and cons of farming with herbicides, I'll just say I'm not farming here, I'm ranching, more or less. I'm not planting out there. And I may yet resort to some chemical if the situation gets dire enough. But it won't be Roundup because I flat out refuse to buy anything from that evil entity if I can possibly avoid it - which I probably can't seeing as how they control over 90% of seeds sold in the us.

WeekendFarmer said...

: )

polly's path said...

We struggle with weeds too, and last weekend I had to re-till our garden, in between the rows. We have had lots of good rain, sun, and hot temps, which have been great for my veggies but also for my weeds. The good part about having goats and using our compost in the garden is my veggies have been well fertilized. The bad part-ditto for the weeds.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

I like your blog!

I sympathize with you completely! I wage an ongoing battle with burdock and the burrs are nasty rolled up in animal hair or stuck in some poor dogs mouth and nose! I keep cutting them down, year after year and they just keep multiplying!

I also prefer to do everything myself without asking for hubby's assistance but sometimes I just have to break down and wait for him. It can be very frustrating!

I drive the tractors and seem to have no end of troubles with them throughout the summer. I had to laugh at your reference to jump starting That is exactly what I have to do for both my little tractors!

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