Friday, June 12, 2009

So you wanna be organic?

This morning, right before the temperature hit 90 degrees, I spent an hour organically dealing with sand burrs. Also known as "goat heads" to cyclists, who are familiar with these burrs from changing the flat tires caused by them, and as "stickers" to children growing up in the Gulf Coast region of Texas.

A pasture full of sand burs, or even just a few plants at each and every gate, with the burrs ready to latch on to dog or cow or person, then hitchhike a ride to a new pasture, is more than a nuisance. Their presence is annoying enough to make a person want to go into mosquito hobby farming just to enjoy the relative pleasure of mosquitoes.

So how does one organically deal with sand burrs? With a hoe or similar instrument, thick gloves and a sincere, if impractical, belief that one can make a difference pulling them out plant by plant. And then burning them. No chance taken on composting these babies and hoping they won't reproduce a year later.

There are two chemicals I know of that are formulated to kill these plants -- one is a pre-emergent (usually these plants don't let me know where they'll be coming up so you have to spray a whole pasture) and a new one just being advertised this spring that will kill them after they have sprouted and grown horns. I haven't bothered looking into the "side effects" of these chemicals and reading the hazards associated with using them. I am easily resisting all temptation to look to this "cure."

Before WW II and the heavy use of chemicals in agriculture, I would guess that sand burrs were taken care of the "organic" way. But those farmers, and earlier, slaves, didn't have air conditioning and digital media calling them hither from the scorching and windy fields. And many of those folks actually tried to make a living or at least feed their family from the direct work of their back. Me, I'm an aging boomer who has chosen a laborious lifestyle to maintain health, and who believes that in the end Nature has the best ideas for the continuation of life on this planet. Maybe not solely for human life, but for life in general.

But I must say that I hope others join me in this organic move to rid this place of sand burrs. Sand burrs must be cruel to the mouths of cows, calves and goats. And I know they can put the toughest dog out of action when buried deep in a paw. To the younger kids and the aging hippies, and to intelligent life forms everywhere,  to anyone who believes strongly and fervently in all things organic and sustainable, or if you just really dislike being pricked, please make sure you never pass a sand burr again without putting an end to its existence!

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