Fine upstanding vanguard of Ozark resilience

Somehow the new alarm reset itself and went off at 5, so I am accidentally up on time for the first time since we got back from Utah. I don’t like clocks, much less alarm clocks, but I usually wake up right at 5 anyway, so who needs them.

Solanum_carolinense_in_flowerActually we do use clocks at Meadowcreek.  This place has had a reputation for being a place that lazy hippies gather and we’re intent on changing that.  At the least we want to be known as hard working hippies.  At best we’d like to be regarded as a fine upstanding vanguard of Ozark resilience. So every day, we do agree to meet at a certain time in a certain place to work.

We try to manage our chaotic impulses so that they increase our resilience and the resilience of Meadowcreek.  We have impulses to dance and sing and flirt and pun, but we also have impulses to work productively.  We try to employ them all at the right times.

One of the best ways to work productively is to build productive assets.  Increasing resilience means maintaining and building productive assets which enhance vital ecosystem functions.  In our Stone County, that means conserving and building soil. The folks who built our new salamander pond last August left the hillside above it bare.  So we’ve spent lots of time trying to cover the bare hill with mulch and get grasses and legumes to grow through it.  Dry August is not a good time to get seeds to germinate, so we seeded again in September  and then again this spring.

Hot August is also not a good time to spend all day in the sun in Arkansas, so it took us a little longer to spread the mulch, since we value our personal resilience and didn’t want to destroy it with heat stroke.

One spot refused to let seed germinate because it was a path for water from further up the hillside.  Whenever it rained any newly germinated seed was washed down toward Meadowcreek.  So we dug some ditches and channeled the excess runoff away.  We also chopped down some weedy trees which were undermining some stone walls and laid them down as erosion barriers.

We followed the resilience principle of conservative innovation by not insisting on only seed of native grasses.  We also seeded some fescue because it is the quickest growing grass available.  The native grasses have come in naturally along with all sorts of other species we didn’t plant.

Species we would immediately pull in the garden are welcome on a bare hillside.  Sticker weed (Solanum carolinense) has come from somewhere, even though there are none of this species anywhere close.  In fact the species is only found in bare soil lacking in nutrients.  It most likely came from seed safely stored in the soil seedbank, waiting for just this opportunity.

Part of any farmer wants to get rid of such a noxious weed before it sets seed.  As my grandmother taught me before I went to school: never let a weed go to seed.  You save yourself so much work by killing weeds before they can propagate.  Otherwise you have hundreds to pull instead of just one.

But the resilient farmer resists the impulse to pull up sticker weeds on bare hillsides. They perform the important function of warding off animals from the area.  A few blackberries and sticker weeds will protect bare ground from deer foraging.  So we are merciful on some weeds which would never survive in our gardens.

Musk thistle and greenbriars are exceptions.  They are just too invasive and too hard to get rid of later.  Greenbriar are the worst since the send down a deep root.  Just clipping off the above ground stem won’t phase them.  This root makes them great for conserving soil by keeping animals out and stopping erosion, but eventually we want this hillside to be a productive garden where greenbriar will be a real menace.

Some folks call sticker weed horse nettle.  But it’s genus tells you it isn’t.  Solanum is the same genus that tomato and potato belong to.  Let sticker weed go to seed and you will see a cute little fruit which looks a little like a tiny tomato.

Seeing what species colonize bare soil is endlessly fascinating and provides a little diversion as we work to stop erosion and build soil on this barren hillside.  If we are persistent and careful we will be known for creating productive soils and thriving enterprises in the stony soils of the Ozarks.

Maybe then we will deserve to be called a vanguard of Ozark resilience.  Until then, at least we have a goal.


If you are interested in identifying common weeds in your garden, click here for a good site.  If you want to learn more about the qualities of resilient systems such as increasing assets and conservative innovation, click here to find those chapters in our book.