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Canadian Thistle

(c) Copyright Chuck Bealke, 1997 

While Spring is in full bloom here, and abundant rains are speeding the growth of things for us to eat and decorate our land with, I sorely miss working in the dirt. But just to prove I'm not in love with EVERYTHING about farming, let me share a few words about an undesirable plant I know intimately. I had almost forgotten that it was and is a blight upon the Missouri countryside of my youth and still seems to be thriving every Spring. In that area folks call it Canada Thistle. Here in Central Texas most cuss it (or maybe a similar relative) as just thistle, and I was just reminded of it when I just drove through an area where highway mowing crews have not kept up with it. By whatever name and in whatever place it thrives, it's a nasty critter. Seems like it grows to stick every walking or befingered creature and ruin otherwise pleasant places to pasture cows, raise a crop or just walk through. And it was a worse pain when hay was put up loose or in square bales lifted by hand. 

Cows and other animals we raised did not like it either. It was a good reason for us not to go barefoot or bare legged in some fields, and gave us incentive to mow early enough to keep it from going to seed. The sharp points on these weeds always seemed to ambush me on hot days when I took off gloves to unwrap weeds wound tight around a mower shaft. And I was reminded that not all my feeling is in my fingers when I would occasionally attempt to sit on a clean looking bale that had a thistle plant hidden on top. This would invariably test the thickness of my jeans' seat and often my prowess at profanity.

Short of chemicals, about the only ways we could discourage Canadian Thistle was to mow and turn it under with a moldboard plow to expose the roots during a long hot and dry spell. Used to be pretty sure that this was king of common nasty, painful, hard-to-eradicate plants until I visited some farms in California in the late 70's. Seems they have some far worse prickly monster there that can somehow send roots out a terrific distance and survive plowing in bone dry ground longer than the memories of those out to do it in. Hope it does not like to travel like fire ants did. Thistle is bad enough for me.


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