The sheer magnitude of our victory overwhelms. Our victory, in this case, is over the wildparsnip, that once dominant invasive capable of inflicting a week’s long painful rash. And the medal for our success can be hung upon one amazingly effective tool. And thinking back, the same tool has an unbeatable track record of success.
Its not really fair to say I discovered the tool. I mean, it was right there, just waiting to be picked up and used. And I certainly knew about it. Everyone did. And strangely, I think everyone including myself, knew it would work. Not only did we know it would work, but it would be by far the least expensive solution. But the cultural taboo against this tool is so strong, that folk wrinkle their nose in disgust at its mere mention.
And I’m not talking about humanure or composting toilets or drinking rainwater or any those unusual, yet societally skeptical tools, we’ve deployed. I’m talking about a tool that everyone, myself included, is offered ever day. In all fairness to the skeptics, I must say this tool has a big drawback: this tool takes time.
In fact, the tool IS time.
To defeat the parsnip---or I should say to reduce it from a rolling sea of yellow to a few golden flashes upon the green---took seven years. But truly the deed is done. Last night, as Linda and I walked the well-mowed prairie perimeter, we laughed in disbelief at our success. “There’s one. And oh look, another one over there.” While I’d still be whacking my way across the prairie with a machete in each hand, I’d never be surrounded. And this morning, that’s exactly what I did. I’d whack one down. Walk. Whack another. And that was in a “bad” spot. The parsnip will never be eliminated. They’ll constantly fling their seeds into the prairie from the surrounding fields. We’ve knocked it way down the invasive species list, never to return to the top. And all thanks to time.
For seven years we’ve cut them down after flowering and before setting seed. The John Deere took the thick accessible patches. The machete took the rest. And what seeds did manage to germinate found themselves competing against prairie plants, whose great roots penetrate down 10 feet, deeper than the tallest parsnip rises. Only on the edge, where the prairie plants are thin, do the parsnip get a toe hold and there the John Deere will find them as Linda makes her rounds.
And time, the same heroic tool that so dominated the parsnip, also turned a pasture into a prairie. Sure, we could have sprayed the pasture with Roundup three times, then planted the prairie seeds. But instead, we just drilled the prairie seed right into the pasture sod. They say our prairie might have taken a year or two longer to emerge. We'll never know for sure. What we do know is its now incredibly diverse, breathtakingly beautiful and rated “Excellent” by the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District. All thanks to time.
I marvel now---when my remaining time on this world is surely less than it once was--- that I learned the value of time as tool. Before, though I never had enough time in the day to get everything done, I seemed to have even less time for results. And I guess that’s really the problem: how long am I willing to wait for results? How long until a prairie emerges? How long until parsnip is well-managed? How long until my novel is written? How long until Linda and I feel “fully at home” here on the Land?
You know, when I think back to all the really good things in my life---my lasting friendships, my journey to the Home the Land Built, the endless dance that is my partnership with Linda---all required the same tool. Time.
So now when I feel it’s taking a long time to get make my book a publishing success. Or the next time I give “the tour” of our house, and someone says, as they always do, “that’s really cool all but it all just takes too much time”. I imagine I’ll just sigh and say, “Yes. Thank you creator. Yes.”