Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Fun Side of Farming

At Shady Side Farm, we are trying to build soil health and not use synthetic chemicals on our land. I saw a poster in a doctors' office once that said "Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Healthy People", which I thought was very surprising. We've been learning about this as we switch over to organic, and I didn't know that any doctors had made the connection between soil health and people health yet. Good sign.

(In fact, does anyone else wonder if the amazing amount of sickness and obesity is related to what we eat? And I'm not talking about eating whole milk cheese instead of 2% milk cheese, here. I'm not a fan of "lowfat" foods that have to make up for the lost taste with high fructose corn syrup. I'm talking more about food that has been bred to "keep" well, ship far, and taste like sawdust. I'll bet the "keeping" and the "nutrition" are inversely proportional. Take the strawberries from California or Florida that crunch when you bite them. Strawberries are supposed to mush, not crunch.)

Anyway, I digress. 

The lack of herbicides means that we get to fight weeds the old-fashioned way. And let me tell you, it's not fun. How many of you would like to sign up for a immersion program that helped you understand life on a farm if it included activities like this?

It makes me want to reach for the Round-Up, truthfully.

And if I find out that you are feeding thistle seed in your backyard bird feeder, I will automatically sign you up for thistle-diggin'. Bring your own shovel. This one's mine.


  1. Okay, I have to speak up for us thistle-feeders and let you know that the USDA requires Niger/Nyjer thistle seed to be heat-treated so it isn't viable.

    But in any case, Niger thistle (Guitzotia abyssinica) is actually more closely related to sunflowers. It looks like this:

    I've been feeding birds in the same spot for 17 years, and while I've grown the odd volunteer sunflower, I can honestly say I've never had one Niger thistle seed sprout.

    Here's another bit of trivia: the Latin name of the American goldfinch, Carduelis tristis, roughly translates as "thistle eradicator".

    MSU Hort. 1987, living about half an hour south of you. :)

  2. Hmmm...I looked at the photos and these are not them thistles! So if Niger thistle is what is in birdseed, then from whence come all these thistles of the non-Niger variety?

    I think I need to get me some goldfinch.

    Nice to meet you, alwen. Feel free to correct my misperceptions (esp. horticultural) anytime.

  3. Kathy has a donkey you could have.........donkeys, at least Pooh's friend, eat thistles, right????

  4. About your digression.....I have wondered those same things many times! I was very disappointed to learn that the fruit stand at our local farmer's market sells fruit shipped from out of state. The veggies are farm fresh, but the fruit is not. What is up with that? I say hooray for your old fashioned way!

  5. i definitely agree with your digression... even more scary to me are the meat and dairy we eat that's been given hormones and god knows what else! i wonder what cumulative effect that must have... kudos to you for going organi.

  6. I can't see them closely, but they look like Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense. My field guide says "Alien" and that they came from Europe.

    The USDA's page has them on the Noxious Weed list of more than 30 states:

  7. You might look into trying vinegar for some things. It kills grass. ;)

    One of my jobs as a kid was to use the sickle to cut down the thistles before they would bloom. Still have a scar to prove it. ;)


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