Thursday, June 6, 2013


Golden yellow violets bloom in the woods and bring joy to my heart. Golden yellow dandelions bloom in the hayfield and I worry.

Each dandelion plant can be as large as a foot in diameter, and although they are nutritious, they aren’t tall enough to be cut by the haybine, so everywhere a dandelion grows, we lose a square foot of our hayfield and as a result, feed for the sheep. Two years ago, because the dandelions were so bad, we dug our hayfield, sprayed it with a combination of herbicides, and planted it to oats. Last year we replanted alfalfa.

I had hoped that by now the alfalfa would have choked out the few remaining dandelions, but they hunker at the edges of the field and when they go to seed, as they are doing right now, they re-infect the hayfield. They are too short to cut with a scythe and there are too many to dig each plant individually. Dave remembers being paid 10 cents, when he was a kid, for each brown paper bag full of dandelion flowers. Nobody works for that kind of wages anymore (and that’s good.)

So here we are, two people who use herbicides sparingly and grudgingly, trying to decide which herbicide to try next. Even worse, the guys at the mill say that dandelions are becoming resistant to the herbicides normally used to control them. We will have to use nastier herbicides. Fortunately, we won’t have to make that decision for a couple of years. All of the herbicides that kill dandelions also kill the alfalfa plants. Each year, I’ll watch for the golden yellow flowers in the hayfield. I’ll measure the number of alfalfa plants per square meter and the number of dandelions. When the ratio gets too bad, we’ll spray our fields and replant the alfalfa.

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