The thistle war

The war on thistles is being lost. There is one particular variety that is taking over the fields.  I run the cows through. Then mow the thistles  behind them. Again and again but it will not give up. I have tried all the organic remedies on small patches. It will not succumb.  It sends suckers underground. This thistle hates shade so the only remedy I see is to plant trees everywhere. But I only rent this land. No trees allowed.

Do you remember when the big digger came through up on the bank and dug all the muck out of the ditch and slung it straight across the bank and on top of the wild grasses in the government land.  It has all come back in thistles. Miles of it. If I used Round Up -and I don’t – even round up will not kill it.  It is Round Up resistant. Soon it will flower and then all those thistle seeds will be blown by the westerly wind straight through the new wild flowers and across my fields.

Now, what the hell do I do about that.  This is a rhetorical question. No need for a question mark.  Or an answer. I am already battling acres of thistles.

Anyway – I am hot already – it was a brutal day in the gardens hoeing and weeding and planting and watering into the night. The humidity has arrived. Today will be even hotter. But there you are. 

My gates have dropsy. This is the fourth one this week -just falling off their hinges.  Dropping to the ground. The ground is drying out and the gates are shifting. And the gates are Johns department. He is in charge of infrastructure. So now we are open plan until his next day off! That and I drained the batteries of two trucks, my car and the mower in the last two days. He was not impressed. I did nothing but try to start the vehicles. I turn them on and they are dead.  It is a problem this draining of the batteries.  Though I have lots of energy for a while. 

Today will be better. Today there is just me – I can do that. And I will walk everywhere. I hope you have a lovely day.

Am I in a mood? Well maybe.  I cannot always be frickin’ Pollyanna.

Love celi

ps – Yesterday I was able to txt with my son who was on a plane travelling to Dubai. Can you imagine!

Weather report: Even hotter. With wind.

Monday 06/12 0% / 0 inMainly sunny. Near record high temperatures. High 96F. Winds SW at 10 to 20 mph.

 Monday Night 06/12 20% / 0 inA mostly clear sky. Low 73F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.


85 Comments on “The thistle war

  1. could you set fire to them in a controlled way….  and who is pollyAnna…a cow? a chicken a pig….  

    Sent: Monday, June 12, 2017 at 12:46 PM

      • I use her name (in vain!) all the time, so your reference made me laugh hard. It’s damn’ hard to be Pollyanna plenty of times in the real-life universe. Especially one overrun with thistles. Maybe you can make a trade of some sort to host a local herd of goats for a good mowing…they’re such excellent field clearers that they’re pretty much the only ‘tool’ that works on Washington state wild blackberry patches that get out of hand. My “thistle” of the day here in San Miguel was finding a bur in my shower towel! Yowtch!!

  2. Ugh, the thistles! They seem to have come out of nowhere here a year or two ago. They stay low everywhere I mow, but they’re still lurking there, hidden and spiky. I’m always so worried that one of the girls will run over one in her bare feet! But there are just too many to dig up. Grrr.

      • We have had excellent luck with goats over the years. I have always kept two goats I make a moveable pen sometimes or I fence them into an area that in only thistles. Sometimes I tether them if the weeds are around the house…they will eat other stuff too. If you don’t want to purchase goats, maybe there is someone close by who would love to pasture their goats. Electric solar fences work well on goats also.

  3. Sorry! I feel your pain and frustration, I do. But I literally laughed out loud at, “I can’t always be a fricken Pollyanna!”

  4. I share the pain of the thistle war. I,’ve heard if you pull them, two grow back in its place. Or wait, was that gray hairs? Ugh!

  5. Beautiful bowl of eggs! No-one can be Pollyanna all of the time, your head would explode, it is just not natural! Well I wish I could get extra energy from the car. I don’t drain batteries but in the winter I am so electrically charge I even get shocks from the water when I wash my hands!

  6. I always thought Pollyanna was greatly overrated; how annoying would it be to live with someone who was always unbearably perky and cheerful? As for the thistles: here’s a very natural solution:

    • Yes, i tried the pigs on the thistles last year remember? My pigs don’t eat thistles – they eat around them and in between and grub them up but the following year all the thistles are back ten fold due to the root redistribution. Not a long term solution. c

  7. Ha ha love it can’t always be fricken Pollyanna! No wonder you are peed off, I would be too! Thistles everywhere and to have that awful bank of sludge causing more! Try to have a nice day. 😊

    • The only solution is chemical and even the sprays (that I see my neighbours use) cannot be used on this massive a scale. The farmers round up would probably kill the thistle and everything else as well. But leave even one alive and off it all goes again. c

  8. My goodness, that is a lot of minor to potentially major problems. Some days the problems come in battalions and solutions forget to show up.
    I hope the solutions slide into place satisfactorily and that you find your rhythm for the next few weeks without woofer help.

  9. Convince your chefs to come up with new delicacy dish using the thistles and watch them all shrivel and die in the field immediately 🙂 I agree with Kate … let the pigs loose. Laura

  10. Torch the thistle before it blooms? Weed Wack them before the bloom?

    I just read the post about milking and selling the Auntie’s. Sad, but family first. Are there family farms near you where you can get milk and cream? Barter chicken, pork, vegetables? Not milking will give you time to work on more garden to sell too, plus the need for less hay. I can see the whole sense in it!

    • I am not setting fire to my fields and we do weed wack but I am talking about full time weed wacking or mowing for 8 hours a day for the whole summer. And mowing my fields is counterproductive too – I don’t have THAT much grass. Cutting them down (or burning them) only strengthens them..

      • When I cut them I use a pointed shovel or a spade and if you cut them below ground level and don’t leave any leaves, not even a partial leaf, just the exposed end of the stalk they die and don’t reseed. The problem with round-up or any other spray is it takes several days to kill and the thistle goes into survival mode and rapidly produces seed before it dies so thats why it seems like they spread. I had them like you on about 3 arces and fought them for years until I started cutting them this way. It was a lot of work but this is the 3rd year of cutting this way and I don’t have very many this year. I cut for about an hour twice this year and I don’t have any now, and if I see one I cut it right away. Might be a good job for one of your helpers,you can tell them it’s organic weed control.

      • Ah – makes sense. The ranchers here burn the prickly pear cactus – then the cows can eat the pads….. The burning burns off the thorns. I wish there were a better solution to the thistle.

  11. Alternative is to use goats, but they would require some controlling.

      • Amazed. I thought goats ate everything – they can clean out a place of snakes, too. Thistles do have a pretty woody stalk and spikes when mature.
        I think you need to convince some needing purpose in life environmentally focused teens/college kids that they should help protect local native plants by digging up invasive species….If you say it with enough authority, they might believe you HAHA
        (We have bitterweed, cedar bushes, and prickly pear that take over pasture…the latter ranchers take out with flame throwers ( not in winds) In drought cattle will eat prickly pears for water if the thorns are singed off.

  12. Even Monty Python would have a hard time looking on the bright side of all that trouble & strife. I finally despaired in my little homestead in an old orchard project & bolted. Years later I remember it as a colorful time in my life when I was crazy. But with heavenly eggs, veggies & apples. I can imagine your son heading to Dubai. You all are Citizens of the World.

  13. Curious as to what kind of thistle….pigs love sow thistle – if it’s burdock thistle, the roots are edible. I recently read another blog from a woman who is trying to fight knapweed (star thistle). She found out that her honey bees love the stuff – and ‘star thistle’ honey fetches a premium price.
    Roll with the punches 😊

  14. Forgive me for being incredibly uneducated on this subject, but what do thistles do, I mean what’s bad about them? Speaking of Round Up, I was walking my dog the other day, and someone was spraying it on the sidewalk, where people and dogs have to walk, because there was grass growing in between the bricks. I was furious. Is it REALLY worth people and dogs getting cancer just to get rid of grass and weeds? People are just spraying it all over the place now. Okay, rant over.

    • Hmm – burning in the high summer is mental plus they grow back FIRST! So if you burn them then you end up with ONLY thistle. Tried goats. c

  15. You might want to check out the info put out by Kathy Voth on teaching your cattle to eat thistles and other weeds. They are actually really high in protein and energy. It really is an interesting and worthwhile concept. The other thing that is good about them is their long taproot aerates the soil, and if you cut them or a cow eats them, it turns into a bunch of great organic matter. Not to be an annoying positive person or anything….

    • I am trying to force them to eat the thistle by mowing it but they really are not, they just eat the grass then lie down in the few corners that don’t have a lot of thistle and wait for the next move. These thistles do not have a tap root – they grow in low to the ground patches and spread rapidly under the ground popping up more plants as they go. To eradicate them i would have to get a huge digger and escavate the top 4 foot of my fields. Not happening. c

  16. I think they are called bull thistles. It would fit because they are just as stubborn and strong as a bull. There are many different varieties of thistles and the worse trait of this one is the large sharp spines on the plant. From what I remember the cows would not eat them, even in hay. We always took a spade and chopped them off at the ground before they bloomed. We also took the added step of putting the chopped off ones into a feed sack and hauling it back to the burn pile. That could have just been because of the hatred of the darn things. For dad keeping them out of the hay field was a priority along with milk weed.
    Thinking cool thoughts for you this week. Also at times I wouldn’t be opposed to whacking Pollyanna with a thistle.

    • Yes I have those too – in fact they are the ones i can get out easily. The ones that are beating me do NOT have a tap root – they grow from root suckers that run along under the ground popping multiple plants up. Over night you will find another hundred small plants in the grass. You are right – Cows don’t eat them. And if they reach my hay field I am ruined..

      • Well if Roundup won’t work I wonder if a way could be rigged up to zap them with an electrical jolt. Now I’m curious as to what kills the darn things. It may be that you will have to kill good vegetation to kill the creeper. The weeds are developing a resistance to our attempts to eradicate them with chemicals. One key to controlling a fast growing invasive plant is to try and keep it from flowering and making seeds. The plants need to reproduce so they are sending up more shoots to counteract the mowed off plants, keep mowing. The plants will continue to try and spread away from the poor growing area (in their biological opinion). By not letting them mature to seed reproduction you are stressing the plants and roots. The plants need to produce leaves and flowers to keep the root healthy. It may take you a couple of years but you should hopefully be able to reduce the spread if not eliminate them.

  17. Anyway you can turn them all in before they flower? Chop them all up and hope they rot?
    I love you being ‘frickin Pollyanna” : )

    • John is trying to keep up with the ones on the bank by mowing with the bush hog. We tried to till them in,this was a massive mistake – you are chopping up the roots and another hundred has grown from each root cutting. c

  18. I feel your pain, Celi. I use 2-4,D on the thistles because it has the safest “grazing restriction” of the common herbicides (as in, pretty much no grazing restrictions for horses). It does kill them, more easily if they are younger and smaller. But if you can persevere with the brush hogging, all the seeds that were obviously lying dormant in that ground the backhoe turned up should have sprouted within, oh, say seven years. It’s a frustrating struggle: farmer vs weeds.

  19. Oh dear. I once thought, when a thistle showed up in my garden years ago, it was a great thing. Such a rookie move! I quickly learned how deep those blasted roots go. I wish you luck on getting rid of that scourge.

  20. Yes, I much prefer Cecilia to Pollyanna! (laugh)

  21. Moods are good. They happen and then they change.
    Thistles were a battle growing up. We had sheep. They seemed to keep them from growing once they sprouted but they always grew outside the fences. A machete on a regular basis kept their seed production lower than it would have been, but we didn’t win that battle.
    Would the pigs root them out after they’ve been mowed?

  22. OMGosh! Pollyanna… Forrest’s whole family have Pollyanna personalities. Drives me freaking crazy. I live in the real world… but alas, they say I am a Negative Nellie.
    I hate chemical but it’s a must with thistle. We have inherited a real problem with them on the west end of the pecan orchard. I was not able to get them sprayed this year and I noticed yesterday there are ACRES of them back there!! Brush killer will do them in, but you surely need a calm day for that. I will have to concentrate on the thistle next year in late winter and early spring. This year I just had to let it go. They’re going to seed now… and I worry they’ll spread into the actual orchard, increasing my work. But, I do know birds like the seed so I’m hoping they eat a lot of thistle seed this winter! 😀
    Everyone gets in a snit and has a mood. Those days can be bad ass for getting things done. For me, I feel more like purging stuff… getting rid of stuff I normally vacillate about what to do. Not a problem when I’m in a mood! 😀

  23. I don’t know what kind of thistle you have, and you may have already tried this. When we first bought our ranch it was covered with star thistle. That particular thistle thrives in poor, dry soil so we put a layer of thick compost everywhere we found it. And we kept doing that, year after year. Finally, we have very little thistle left. We compost our horse manure so we always have lots of extra to spread around.

  24. I doubt even Pollyanna would have been able to find something glad about thistles… not even your land. And yep, I know it… when you report yet another thing to the person in charge of infrastructure…

  25. We’ve had castor oil plants pop up after the flood, millions of them. They’re an invasive weed here, but there’s all these seeds in the silt and mud left behind and they just keep growing. I keep pulling them out as I find them, but they’re all over the parks and road verges where there’s too many to pull…..opportunistic little beggars, like your thistles. Council will come along soon and spray everything, unfortunately. It’s harder when you have no control over the rest of the land.

  26. I love that you said Pollyanna – brought back such strong memories of my mother! She WAS a Pollyanna! I hope you can keep trying to behead the thistles, as that is about your only hope.

  27. You are on your own so shout and stomp and threaten to the heavens like Scarlett O’Hara ‘I’ll never have thistles on my land again’ [well, she shook her fist at poverty again or something 🙂 !]. Good for the soul ! Seriously Mrs NotPolyanna, someone above spoke of Gov or NG departments: surely you have one for organic farming which has met that problem before and can provide some definitive answers ?

    • They will just send some one over to spray it. The bank I cannot fix and i don’t want everything sprayed dead. We will just keep digging them out of the fields. c

      • I looked up the product Eva mentioned and it supposedly is ‘organic’ but methinks the cost would be prohibitive on the size you have to cover ! You sure do not need that extra work especially if there are not as many wwoofers looking for places this year . . . . damn!

  28. the best way I found to deal with thistles , and iron weed is, I wait till they are starting to bloom, then mow them down.
    they usually do not have time to send up another bloom. but if they do . chop them again
    it takes a couple of years for their root to die out, but seem to be the only way that works for me.
    my thistles were introduced by a neighbor feeding thistle seed to birds.

  29. Amen. I hear you. Farming is hard. I don’t feel like being Pollyanna every day either. Coyotes are eating our goats. Squash bugs are killing our squash plants. I’m up at 5 and don’t come in till after 9. I’m drenched in sweat by the time the sun comes up. I wouldn’t trade this life for any other, but it’s not all playing with cute animals and sitting on the back porch sipping sweet tea.

    I hope you find a solution to your thistle problem. They seem worse than normal here this year too, but not nearly as bad as what you’re dealing with.

    Thanks for keeping it real.

  30. J > Hi Celi. Scotland does thistles – a different variety for every season and circumstance. You will certainly get an outburst after that ditch-clearing, because it released seed preserved in the sediment. But nature can only make room for so many thistles, and not everywhere they germinate and grow will they persist – the conditions may not be favourable. so you’ll find they will reduce anyway. Hower the roots can only survive if fed by the leaves, and as long as you keep topping them you’ll weaken the roots and then the competition will do the rest. Don’t get mad – get even!

  31. The comment section is really interesting. I had no idea . . . I always thought “thistle” had an amusing sound. I first saw one up close in mid-life. A student pointed it out, standing tall (evidently not your kind) beside a country road. I thought its flower was mysteriously appealing, like a single, staring eye. Some teacher, me . But I’m learning here. Never too late.

  32. I call that a ‘condo’ day, as in why didn’t I buy a condo. Been without power since 7 Monday evening, half a huge tree went down behind the house just missed the pasture fence, it’s like a sauna outside and my John is fishing in Canada! Not feeling Pollyanna-ish either

  33. Three thoughts:
    1. Biological control? There seems to be any number of articles on Google. I can’t suggest one without knowing which thistle you have. Gall Flys seem to be a North American thing. I also read something about weevils in my two-minute scan.
    2. Old-school graft ? Grub the bastards out with a mattock, hook them out root and all. That is what we do. It is suprising how many acres three people can cover in a few days, and your land is flat!
    3. Polyanna was a goody-two-shoes, and I never finished the book.

    p.s. I am also thinking that you can spin certain thistle fibres. Maybe there is a use for your crop? Whilst unlikely, it never huts to think outside the box.

  34. And…
    after I posted that, I got to thinking about the role of taproots in soil quality. If, as you have mentioned your land has been abused in the past, then the thistles and other taproots can play an important role in bringing nutrients up from deep in the ground. I am no expert in this, but there are experts like BioGro and other organic soil quality scientists. Perhaps the thistles are a necessary part of the recovery of the land. Perhaps there is a ‘right’ time to just plough them back in, e.g. just before they flower?
    Worth a look.

  35. You do not HAVE to be Pollyanna for us. I am sorry about the thistles. They are horrible little plants. I can lend you a tortoise.

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