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Rev. Elizabeth
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« on: August 20, 2015, 12:25:22 PM »

Perhaps it is a fool's errand.  They’re root propagators, so what difference will it make if I destroy the flower heads now gone to seed?  Perhaps it’s a spin on the story of  the boy tossing the starfish back into the sea.  If  100 seeds fall, and 10,000 are destroyed, will there be fewer of those dreadful wild parsnips, or am I just exhausting myself in the hot August sun for my own peace of mind. They showed up about 3 years ago. I tried having the soil scraped off and replaced  They showed up again and again. I keep cutting off the seedheads in the fall; they still  come back., I think, perhaps wishfully, that they  are not spreading. Change is inevitable, but I refuse to see the ravine  overtaken by wild parsnips; they have no beauty; no appeal. They do not speak to my soul.

The ravine is a magical habitat.  Paths created by Bud Parsons wind along the stream and up and down the hillside.  Staghorn sumac create a tunnel of shade, and in the spring the staghorns provide food for returning birds.  The farm stream burbles when it is full.  An endless array of flowers bloom from one season to the next.  It is a special place.
Since we moved here 9 years ago the ravine has changed. The stream that comes down from the farm is deeper and wider. Its occasional flooding creates a  small delta with threads of water spreading amongst the foliage, only to be absorbed once the storms end.  A willow tree that was barely a twig is   now close to 20 feet high  and droops over the ledge marking the passage from ravine to meadow.
 Come late July and August  the soft mauve of the joe pye weed  blankets much of the ravine as it did 9 years ago. Actually,  there are more joe pye weed, more golden rod, and fewer milk weed this summer.  The flat topped white asters, the purple vetch and bind weed seem to have established a permanent  place for themselves.  The tenacious bind weed climbs and twines and twists itself around the anything and everything.  The wild parsnips, the queen anne’s lace are hidden beneath the weight of the many strands climbing, twisting, obscuring the plants beneath.   It was a challenge to cut off the wild parsnip heads entangled in the bindweed.  Three and four strands wound around each other making a thick cord of stubbornness. Finally,  pulling the cut parsnips up and away, the cord of bindweed would reveal itself so I  could have to clip that, too, releasing the parsnips.  Holding the parsnips high,  the bindweed trailing behind, I tramped down the Canada thistles that pocked my legs,  watched for bindweed vines waiting to trip me, and pretended I was the wood moving toward Dunsinane castle. 

The bindweed seems to have no competition in its apparent endeavor to entwine every available plant in its thrall. But this year the wild cucumber is running a close second.  I have never seen them spread so extensively, so beautifully. Festooning  the pine branches, decorating  the tops of the queen anne’s lace, bordering the fence around the compost, entwining  the dead elm, the cream flowers of the wild cucumber stand like candles on a cake,  or a Christmas tree.  Perhaps they are celebrating a holiday that only they know.
 
To say I was hot and miserable as I tromped down thistle and tugged at bindweed, and snipped and snipped at the wild parsnips is an understatement.  I would be lying if I said I was having fun.  But, I was bound and determined.  These would not invade the ravine; they would not push out the joe pye weed, the asters, the golden rod. The ravine would not become like the verges of so many roads, overcome with these ugly invasive plants.

The ravine is different than it ever has been.  The trees taller, broader, thicker, are now home to cardinal and catbird and purple finch, birds that were once  only visitors passing through.  Now, every morning, the cardinal whistles the world awake.  The catbird mews with annoyance, and the finches flutter to the feeder. 

Purple vervain  has made  an appearance; one or two clusters of deep purple spikes stand out amidst the golden rod.  The high bush cranberry on the hillside has spread out, and its berries bright and attractive. And everything is tall this year.  Six foot asters; towering tall golden rod and joe pye weed.  I am dwarfed by the beauty.

The ravine will continue to change; some plants will be overtaken by others. The elms will succumb to disease. The stream will continue to deepen and widen. The box elder will spread as it is wont to. It will become more wild, more dense.
The wild parsnips will undoubtedly appear once again next year, and I, annoyed,  will take my clippers and remove the seeds, being scratched by the thistle, and tripped by the bindweed. Yet I will still watch and wonder; that will never change.


« Last Edit: August 26, 2015, 06:17:58 PM by Rev. Elizabeth » Logged
sue
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2015, 01:33:51 PM »

so true.  You make everything alive with your writing.
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dgardell
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« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2015, 12:39:25 PM »

Such a lovely tale and so beautifully written.  It's survival of the fittest though and I'm betting on you!
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