By Marcee Murray King
There are not enough hours of the day to get rid of all the invasive species and other weeds choking out the other plants on our 25 acres.
The garlic mustard is out of control, while the wild grape vines are dragging down our trees. The wild parsnip makes blisters on my legs and arms if we aren’t alert. My son spent four days hand-digging thistle out of five acres in the blistering sun, only to have new ones sprout in different places days later. An impenetrable wall of wild rose is growing on parts of our land—impossible to remove without blood and pain. Burdock tangles in our hair and our animals’ fur, hurting us when it becomes embedded in our skin and sometimes, scratching an eye.
I just want to poison it all.
While I can eat the garlic mustard, there is too much, and I can’t find a recipe that makes it palatable to me. It’s a “desperate” food—on my list of quick foods to grab if a huge disaster occurred. The wild parsnip is delicious, but the harvesting is a dangerous task, so it is on the list with the garlic mustard.
The wild rose? It has lots of little medicinal uses, but not so many that we have a use for the enormous crop we have. The wild grapes are tasty, if you can climb up in the 30 foot tree to harvest them before the trees collapse. The burdock is a spectacular green ally, but not helter skelter all over my woods and fields.
Every one of these weed issues has a totally natural, organic solution: Me.
I sincerely get why everyone uses the poison. I did once too, on the wild parsnip. My first summer here when I heard the horror stories of the blisters left by the juices, I scoffed. Thinking that it sounded just like poison ivy—which I am most definitely not allergic to—I weed whacked it down, assuming I was immune. I had blisters for months. Hoping to keep my children from blistering, I bought this amazing poison!
Spray it on and in a day or two it has grown itself to death.
Ah! Instant karma! Do you know how satisfying it was to watch all those leaves sprout and twist and die, knowing they would never scar my skin ever again? I still get a grin when I remember it…
After that one moment of satisfaction, I did feel guilty, but not enough to not use Round Up a few times though, many, many years ago. A friend highly immersed in the organic certification movement told me it was the least objectionable poison and vanished from their soil tests within two weeks. Sounded like magic! Now we know the truth about that, and know how toxic it is as well. Guilt again.
I sincerely want our land to be organic and to get that organic certification. I also want my land well tended and not ruined by these horrible invasive species and weeds. I want to work my land and enjoy my land, but don’t want to spend my whole life doing battle with weeds. I have other farming tasks I need to do, clients I need to see, horses I want to ride, books I want to read and art I wish to make.
I truly understand why folks dump poison on their land. I just know that ethically, I don’t want to do this. It is such an internal battle though: How do I take care of the land without hurting the land? Yet, if I don’t control these things, the land itself is being rendered “useless” for farming and for animals, as well as for simple enjoyment. How do we balance being stewards of the land with not being able to keep up with the maintenance of the land?
A dialogue constantly runs through my head, a perpetual pros and cons list in everything I do.
There are no easy answers.
The land was treated horribly for years. Working as a natural healer, my inclination is to see if I can become a natural healer for this amazing land that I am blessed to call home.
Living in the heart of Organic Valley as well as conventional farmers, the internal debate itself is fertile ground for spiritual growth. It grows in me a certain flexibility and an understanding of both sides that I might not have if I wasn’t doing a battle with myself.
I do know that we have landed firmly on the non-poison side of the debate, and I know this will mean far more work on our part. It might mean a bit more compromise in other areas of my life to make this happen—something I am now internally battling with as well.
There are many shades of grey in these areas, and I may have to choose some lesser evils to accomplish what I consider a greater good in the world.
Compromise is hard for me, making it a good practice as it helps me find more flexibility in my spirit.
Photo: Leo Reynolds/Flickr
Editor: Dana Gornall
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