Cappers Farmer Blogs > Old Dog, New Tricks

The Weed Commissioner

Dear reader, If you have been following the story of our farm, you may be thinking,”Why did they buy such a mess?” It is true that we knew the buildings were in bad shape, and we knew about most of the junk. Then, something nasty happened to us that we didn’t deserve and weren’t prepared for. Something I want to tell you about. 

Although our farm has been in drought condition the last couple years, we had plenty of rain that first year. In fact, we had so much, every time we came, we spent the first few hours mowing what we just mowed the weekend before. We only had an old lawn mower, and we started our mowing in the house yard, and worked our way outwards, always needing to check and pick up junk ahead of the mower when claiming a new area. 

We never had time to venture very far, and before we knew it, the whole place was very thick with tall weeds. Larry started noticing thistles along the edges, cut a few, and brought them back in a wheel barrel for me to see. It was only springtime and they were already like tall, skinny bushes.

Thistles

Quote: “Even the richest soil, if left uncultivated will produce the rankest weeds.” Leonardo da Vinci

One day, the weed commissioner called us at our city home. He was pleasant, but his message was that we needed to take care of the thistles as they are a noxious weed, or we would be fined. Furthermore, if we didn’t, he would need to send someone out to take care of them for us and we would also be charged for that.  

Now, we were already feeling sorry for ourselves about the thistles. We were working hard to clean the place up. Why were we being picked on? His explanation was that no one had complained to him before. We didn’t blame anyone for complaining; we just wished they had done it to the previous owner! In hindsight, it is fortunate that it worked out this way, as the land hadn’t been used for many years and was free of chemicals. We certainly didn’t want them spraying the whole place, so I pleaded for time. When he realized we didn’t want to use spray, he suggested we ask a neighbor to mow, but we couldn’t ask a stranger to risk his equipment in all that mess. 

So, you can guess what we did every weekend the rest of the summer. Straight through Father’s Day, Larry’s birthday, and our anniversary. Thistles and more thistles. A wide swath wrapped around the backside of all the buildings, and when we got down into the lower pasture, there were thick areas the size of large rooms hiding in the tall weeds. We first dug them out just below ground, but later chopped them off at ground level. Burning them changed to leaving them in piles in the lower pasture where they were already starting to shed their zillions of seeds. They were endless.

Smelling the Thistles

Smelling the rose - ah - thistles! The thistle blooms are really quite beautiful.

Larry has always been able to work hard, but he was surprised that I could continue this type of labor through the long, hot days. I really enjoyed working side by side with him, plus there is something about trying to save a good piece of land when it is your very own property. So, we continued cutting thistles from dawn to dusk those many, many weekends. I told him that if I died of heat exhaustion, he and the kids needed to know that the work was my choice and I had had a wonderful time doing it. 

Larry and I are both 71 now, and have slowed down a bit. Time passes quickly at this age, and we marvel at how that first summer on the farm is already five summers ago. When we reminisce about it, we wonder where we got the extra strength. It amazes us. We worked so hard, too hard, and yet it was an experience we’ll never forget. It was OUR farm.