Thursday, July 13, 2017

The buck(thorn) stops here!

We live at the boundary of a very large wildlife management area. We've lived here for about a quarter of a century. We have an overabundance of buckthorn. Based on observations over the years, the local deer population would much rather consume rose buds, lilacs, forsythia, and black chokeberry, almost anything except buckthorn (turkeys and bears seem partial to sunflower seeds).

before buckthorn removal
before buckthorn removal
Photo by J. Harrington

I've read that buckthorn berries "have no food value; they are cathartic." I've observed that, as buckthorn grows, it provides shelter and shade for our local poison ivy vines, complicating the removal of buckthorn and diminishing severely the likelihood that disturbed soil will be tamped down. The easily accessible ivy leaves were sprayed before we started, and some of it is turning yellow. As more becomes reachable when the invasives are pulled, it too will get sprayed. I'm just trying to avoid wholesale application of herbicides, since there are some plants I'd like to save.

former location of two buckthorn bushes
former location of two buckthorn bushes
Photo by J. Harrington

What I'm not sure of, but will be researching this Winter, is what kind of beneficial understory would be a good replacement for buckthorn. I suspect I'll be checking with these folks and whoever else seems like they might be able to offer helpful advice. I think we noted a few days ago that buckthorn appears as if it may be an exception to the philosophy of "finding beneficial uses for invasive species" as espoused in the permaculture guidance of Beyond the War on Invasive Species. On the other hand,  continuing successional development of our prairies grasses and wildflower fields seems to be diminishing the number of sandbur plants that appear each year. That's good news. So is the fact that the jeep has, so far, been more than capable of pulling those saplings that have, from time to time, thwarted the best efforts of the tractor and I. I keep telling myself that this way is easier than becoming a goat keeper. I hope I'm right.

Putting in the Seed


Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963


You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree.
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea;)
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.


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