Weeds and More Weeds
There will always be weeds. You should just resign yourself to that fact up front.
My mom always said that a weed was simply a misplaced plant. I find this to be true. If I find a wild Morning Glory along the ditch bank, it is a pretty wild flower. If I find Witch’s Hair feeding on a goat-head patch, it is a useful evil-sticker-plant killer. If I find any of the grasses in the pasture, it is food for my ungulates. However, if I find these things in my garden, they are all weeds, no argument.
We don’t use fertilizers – we use manure mixed with old hay into a compost mix. There are plenty of weed seeds in that natural manure. Our main water source is the ditch water, which is from the river, which flows through miles of other people’s property before it gets to us, spilling out into our garden where we want it. There are plenty of weed seeds in that natural water source. We don’t use herbicides, so all weed removal is done the old fashioned way – me pulling then up by the roots. Of course, once removed from the garden, all these weeds are miraculously turned into food for the goats and donkeys.
Here I have some pictures of the common weeds in my garden. Some of them I know what they are, some I only know the local name, and some I have no idea (though I might have a pet name for it).
We have a few varieties of Bind Weed in the garden. Some are a delicate pink like this one and some are vibrant red. If I find them off to the side where they won’t bother my veggies, I let them be. Simply, they make me smile. But if they get into plants I care about, they can twist and turn, climbing the plant, and eventually smothering it.
Tumbleweeds are a pain in the butt. They can get as tall as me and be very difficult to pull out of the ground. The donkeys and goats will eat them when they are young and perhaps tasty, but will be less than impressed if you offer an older, more woody one. They also itch like crazy, so you need to protect your skin while yanking these out. Their pollen turns me into a snott-nosed idiot.
The third plant featured here, I don’t know a name for it. It grows all over this valley. Personally, I find it a lovely looking plant, and it smells like licorice when uprooted. It makes yellow flowers that turn into these 1-inch long pineapple shaped stickers that are extremely difficult to get out of hair (donkey, goat, cat, or human) and clothing.
Goatheads are simply evil. The plant grows close to the ground, hugging it and spreading outward. This makes it difficult for the goats and donkeys to eat it. While it is not it’s favorite, they will munch on it unenthusiastically if I pull it up. If left to their own devices, the plant will produce small yellow flowers and then goatheads – caltrop-shaped stickers. These get stuck in boots and end up in the house and punch real easily through socks and callused feet. This causes me to dance around on one foot swearing like a jailhouse guard that started life on a merchant ship.
The goats and donkeys absolutely adore wild amaranth – which is a good thing because it is everywhere in the garden. If left unchecked, it can get to be 5 feet tall. The beasties will eat it in any state – young and tender or tall, old, and in seed. Some species of amaranth are grown on purpose and the grain collected. I have read that the grain can be popped, like popcorn, and then mixed with honey for a crunchy sticky treat. I have not tried it with our wild amaranth as the animals enjoy it so much.
Wild spinach, also known as Lambsquarter, isn’t as prevalent as the amaranth, but the beasties love it just as much. I have eaten a handful or two in the garden as a snack, but overall, it would be quite a bit of work to collect enough for a side dish at dinner.
The next plant I don’t have a name for. It shoots several stalks up from the base, usually getting about 4 feet tall. Then it blooms these tiny flowers that attract the bees. Our neighbor has some hives, so we always try to leave wild flowers on the property for them. I like this plant, but there are only a few on the place.
Witch’s Hair, also known as Dodder, is both fascinating and a troublesome plant. It has no roots in the ground, but rather wraps around and sinks into any plant it can. It lives off the juices of other plants and eventually will kill the host plants. If it is living off of goatheads and tumbleweeds, I cheer it on. If I find it wrapped around my corn, I rip it out. In the picture here, you can see the tiny white blossoms it makes.