One thing about all this hot sunny weather….the weeds shoot up like rockets on the Fourth of July. Sometimes I swear I can actually SEE them growing. While we like to let everything go as wild as possible to provide habitats for pollinators and beneficial insects, the amount of jungle we can entertain is limited by the appearance standards of our town. Even more important, we want to be good neighbors.
One of the greatest joys of living at Half-Pint Homestead is the mental exercise I get. It’s incredibly exhilarating to take a problem and find three or four ways to solve it, then choose the best of those. Take the example of these weeds. I could:
- Kill them with poison – not even an option as I don’t want to expose myself or the earth to this stuff
- Chop them with a weed eater – Okay, but they grow right back and I have to do something with the chopped part. My compost bin is only so big….
- Hack them down with a manual weed chopper – Same issues as the weed eater, but at least I get a good workout
- Cut them daily and feed them to the livestock. – This turns the weeds into a solution rather than a problem
I’m pretty sure you know which one I’m going to choose. After all, feed is the most energy intensive portion of Half-Pint Homestead and I’m always looking for ways to reduce the amount of feed we need to bring in. There is a mix of perennial and annual weeds in the patch. Annual weeds, such as ragweed, provide a lot of bulk quickly and are very digestible. Perennials, such as mulberry and grape vine, have more woody stems which are less digestible, but their deep root systems mine the subsoil for minerals.
One thing to note about feeding weeds; it’s important to be able to identify the plants you are harvesting so you don’t give anything toxic to your livestock. While it’s true that animals out grazing in a natural setting will generally avoid or only eat a small amount of toxic plants, critters in confinement will eat everything you give them. If I don’t know exactly what it is, or if I’m not sure about it toxicity, I put it in the compost bin rather than feed it.
It took me less than 5 minutes to fill my bucket with ragweed, grapevine, and redbud. Another 5 minutes and everyone was happily munching on this healthy, and even better, free feed. Living this way forces me to see that there really are no “weeds”. Nothing is waste, but merely food for something else in the endless spiral of Life, Death, Life.