weeds

VISITING OUR WEEDS

Thistles and brooms, ryegrass and goosegrass and vetch.

The more I learn about the weeds that infest our paddocks, the more I find myself spotting them when we travel.

Fancy names, multiple names, “Great Mullein”, “Salvation Jane”, “Horehound” and “Pellitory of the Wall”.

Some are clearly at home, well controlled by the climate, or insects or other features that keep them in check.  Others are clearly weeds to the places we visit also.

Some are surrounded by little fences, protected plants in their place of origin, hardly surviving their own onslaught of invaders, like the pine trees of the Madonie forest in Sicily, a tiny patch of grass on the old castle mount in Cambridge, or what looked like serrated tussock in a municipal planter in Malta.

Some of our Esdale weeds were Australianised by the homesick, like Scotch thistles and Scotch broom.

Some were brought for their medicinal qualities, like variegated thistles  or St John’s Wort.

Others were brought even more deliberately, as part of agricultural projects, like African Lovegrass, a contamination of Consol grass, to be used for erosion control.

Blackberries, dandelions, and nettles for food.

Hawthorn for hedges.

All necessary to people who could see no potential in the unknown Australian plants around them.

All essential so the invaders could feel at home, by bringing more invasives with them.

Left behind was the sense of living together with the land, keeping the seasons according to ancient knowledge, like the swallow return in Sicily, which helped farmers time their crop planting.

Such traditional knowledge existed in Australia too, before Europeans.

In the meantime,  Australian plants have joined the worldwide whirlwind of plant mixing, especially eucalypts planted for timber and windbreaks.

The eucalypts in Sicily looked particularly miserable, as invasives sometimes do when a single predator makes it across the big divide and begins to control them again.  Sicily certainly needs trees (the ones that weren’t chopped down by the ancient Greeks were removed by the Normans), but Sydney Blue Gums were a strange and now unhealthy choice.

At least, as we wandered the hills of Sicily, Cornwall, Tamil Nadhu, or wherever, there were some things that haven’t joined our Esdale irritations.Sicily roadside thistle Petralia

Or not yet, anyway.

Sicily roadside thistle
Advertisements

WEEDS – OOPS, NOT A WEED

There’s a look that weeds tend to have:  often spiky like a thistle,;definitely fast growing;  pretty flowers perhaps; obviously not delicious to sheep (so still in existence in a paddock);and setting lots of seed for example. Continue reading

STRIP TREES

It’s that time of year again, when we happily send some young trees out naked into the winter.Yin and maximum number of covers ever

The ones that seem large enough have their wildlife and frost resistant covers removed, so that we can recycle them for this year’s plantings.   That’s hundreds of covers to be jerked up, flattened and carried back to the truck, then transported to our overcrowded garage for storage. Continue reading

WEEDS PART 1- THE BURNING QUESTION

Farming, like nature, is messy.  It’s nice to see the smooth green grass of spring covering the hills and disguising the rocks.  The modern golf course look.   Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily what you need either for wildlife or for grazing stock. Continue reading

A PICNIC UNDER THE MISTLETOE

We regularly see mistletoebirds (Dicaeum Hirundinaceum) around the house and around the hills.  They’re a flowerpecker with a taste for mistletoes.

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum Hirundinaceum) photo by Leo from iNaturalist.org

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum Hirundinaceum) photo by Leo from iNaturalist.org

Mistletoes grow all over the world, not just at Christmas for romantic kissing purposes. Unlike the area north of us, near Lake Burrinjuck, however, our eucalypts have few mistletoes.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe they’re too widely spaced.  It’s probably for the best given all the other stresses on them.  Parasitic mistletoes are a big drag on a host tree’s resources.

Eucalypt with mistletoe, Wee Jasper Road near Yass

Eucalypt with many  mistletoes, Wee Jasper Road near Yass

It’s puzzled me what the mistletoebirds are eating around here.

Meanwhile, Lesley Peden and I were jolting around the paddocks looking at the sites I want to use for tree-planting this year. Continue reading

MAKING HAY

grass in field

This spring growing season has been a big one.  Extra troops in the form of certified Angus cattle had to be brought in to eat down some of the extra grass.

Now the pastures have all dried off in the hot winds, in time for bushfire season.

Ready to burn. Continue reading

CHOCOLATE LILIES – YUM

What an excellent idea, lilies that smell like chocolate.

Or vanilla, or caramel, depending on your sense of smell (or lack of it, in my case, thanks to allergies).

Something to make you smile, anyway.

When I saw the first glimpse of purple in the long grass, I thought it was Paterson’s Curse ( echium plantagineum), a European exotic which we’ve been working on controlling because it’s toxic and invasive. Continue reading

WEEDS – THE BOTANY OF UNDESIRABILITY

capeweed

capeweed (arctotheca calendula)

According to  Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire there are plants that, just by chance, have turned out to be something we really want. Potatoes as food, apples for fruit and alcohol, marijuana for druggy highs.  Those plants that we like, we promote and encourage no matter how needy and pathetic they are.  We choose them over all others.  The attractiveness of tulips led to a bidding war that collapses an economy (in the 17th century, but still).  We move them from continent to continent, grow them under lights and in hothouses and despite all discouragement.

weed patchI was thinking about this as I hauled out weeds from the bottom of the garden. Continue reading