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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wild Parsnip: Scene II

[they fight until Arthur cuts off Black Knight's left arm]
King Arthur: Now, stand aside, worthy adversary!
Black Knight: 'Tis but a scratch!
King Arthur: A scratch? Your arm's off!
Black Knight: No, it isn't!
King Arthur: Well, what's that then?
Black Knight: I've had worse.
King Arthur: You liar!
Black Knight: Come on, you pansy!
[they fight again. Arthur cuts off the Black Knight's right arm]
If I’m Monte Python’s frustrated King Arthur then Wild Parsnip is my Black Knight.  My right hand swings its machete.  A left branch falls.  Now the left hand machete.  A right branch falls.  Whack!  Whack!  Whack!  I hack the stem into pieces.  Only a glistening stub remains.  Yet I know he’ll be back.  At least one seed---out of the hundreds now lying at my feet---will ripen, germinate and sprout.  And after loitering as a mere basal rosette for a year, he’ll rise and flower again in the second.  Then, oh worthy adversary, we’ll have at it again.   
If you’re wondering why I bother to march up and down our 40 acre prairie swinging two machetes in 90 degree heat, check out last July’s blog.  If nothing else you’ll learn what phytophotodermatitis is and why you should care!
Last July, after finally defeating the gnats, I conceded the vast southerly swath of prairie to Wild Parsnip.  I feared a fierce onslaught:  revenge of the Wild Parsnip.  Not so!
We are winning!   Our birth control strategy---cut it down after it flowers and before setting seed---is slowly but surely pushing Wild Parsnip into the prairie background.    On the prairie, Linda didn’t even need to bring out her big guns:  the John Deere 2510 wielding a 6 foot MX6 rotary mower.  I did it all my machetes.  But there’s a secret to our success!
Now that we’re living here I get out more often.  This morning---hacking back and forth through a formerly dense 1 acre patch---I completed my seventh outing.  I’ve come to observe that short-lived, heavy seeding plants, like Wild Parsnip, do NOT ripen all at once.  They assaulted us in two ripening waves this year, one in mid-June, the other in early July.   Had I waited until now to begin, the June assault would have succeeded, unleashing thousands upon thousands of seeds. 
All this is to say that one of our experiments actually seems to be working.  When so much of Home the Land Built rests upon very little that is tried and true---sawdust toilet, masonry heater, off-grid electric, rainwater harvest, solar hot water, passive cooling----it’s a relief to put a mark in the win column.    But I’m afraid it’s just that:  a single score in a long, long game.
“Come on you pansy!”

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