July Farm Update

By Eileen Watts

The rain deficit is about over — grass is growing with gusto and it’s haying time.  Our fields are increasingly being inundated with hemp dogbane that is toxic to livestock.  The name tells of its harmfulness, “bane” in the dictionary means murderer!  (It is a native plant and Native Americans used the fine fibrous inner layers of the stem to weave small baskets and bowls.)  We have mowed the most thickly populated spots so that they won’t be incorporated in the hay.  It proliferates via rhizomes (underground roots), so our plan for now is to mow several times this year and again for the next couple of years to weaken it.  An old dictionary from 1961 calls dogbane chiefly a tropical plant.  Is this another indicator of climate change?  It is definitely on the rise.
 
The need for natural areas and outdoor experiences will always be with us, I guess, especially as urbanization continues.  Recently, a school girl from Washington, DC visiting the Farm was going to help plant field corn in an area that had been planted previously but crows pulled up all the tiny plants and seeds.  After hearing this, the girl asked “What is a crow?”  It took us by surprise, but then comparing her environment to ours we could understand.  However, many crows do dwell in cities but not all city dwellers spend much time outdoors.  The common crow is not so common to everyone.