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May 30, 2012: Cow Parsnip

Indeed, animal stuff is taking up a lot of our time. Today we first took Jenna, Rainbow, Tinni, Hrimmi, and Signy for a walk on a nearby trail (two miles), and after rode Raudi and Siggi to Moose Creek, with Jenna following (five miles). I managed to get the goats out for a walk (one mile). And this evening we hiked the bench with Rainbow, Jenna, Hrimmi and Signy (four miles). Our friend Karen came with us at the near end-of-the-day hill climb.

In between exercising animals, Pete worked on the garden, and I hacked away at cow parsnip. I can’t stand the

Even goats don't eat cow parsnip
Goats don't eat cow parsnip

stuff. There is just one good thing to be said about it, and this is that the bees go for the pollen. Heracleum maximum, also known as Indian Celery, Pushki, or Hogweed, is native to North America. It’s also an invasive weed—but not here.

My theory is that the space brothers brought a few starts with them one on of their visits to planet Earth. Their intentions were of mostly good—they figured that we needed the dietary addition – vitamin O or something. They also thought this would be a good way to keep tabs on us, so they injected the original plants with furanocoumarin. This chemical is found in the sap and outer hairs of the plant. Plants use this photo-toxic substance to protect themselves from fungus attacks. The chemical makes you itch, and so you scratch it. And if you handle cow parsnip in the direct sunlight, you can end up with blisters. It’s been likened to poison oak and poison ivy.

Our yard is full of cow parsnip. I’ve been hacking away at the eight foot tall stalks in the fall, when it’s going to seed. This year, I decided to get after it early on. And even now is a bit late – the stuff is already two feet tall. Yesterday I looked around the yard, saw the stuff growing lushly and then had a very brief conversation with Pete about the situation.

“Gonna save the world,” I said.

“One cow parsnip at a time.” He said.

“It takes a village,” I replied.

I routinely go at it pretending that I’m a Viet Cong guerilla clearing the Ho Chi Min Trail. Thwap, thwap, thwap I go, with the hoe. Then I rake it up, and put it aside for compost. This seemed to me to be a thankless job, but late this afternoon it got more thankless. I took the hoe and went down to the horse pasture. It’s going to take a lot of time to clear out this area – and I am not looking forward to it. A comparison can be made to sweeping a floor with the stick end of a broom.

Perhaps, someday, the space brothers will return to planet earth with their multi-phasic weed wackers, and if we ask them very nicely, cut down the Pushki. Then, we’ll all celebrate, by making it an intergalactic holiday.

174. 05/31/12: More on the Wonderfoal