April 16, 2005

The Horehound War

April is the Month of Soft Soil, when our heavy clay soil is soggy from snow melt, before it hardens in the summer.

It is the month to set wooden fence posts, transplant trees, and this year, to pull up and dig up the horehound that took over an area around the guest cabin during the drought year of 2002.

I had been mowing it, but it still spread, sending down its tap roots, and choking out every bit of grass and wildflower.

I filled the wheelbarrow six times over with horehound, thinking now and then of the New Mexico writer Jesse Wolf Hardin's own battle with it.

Elsewhere he writes on the tricky issue of "invasive" plants,

Just as bad was the horehound incursion, seeds hitchhiking up onto the mesa stuck to our socks, moving through the rest of the county in the tails of horses and the alfalfa hay they eat. It looks so lovely at first, in patches of short ground-cover that smell sweetly when walked upon, pungent leaves perfect for brewing up a batch of old-fashioned horehound cough drops. It isn't long however, before they form a solid crusty plane of yard-high vegetation too thick to walk through. Where the ground around our cabin and below the cliffs were once graced by desert mariposa and soaptree yucca, soon there was only horehound.

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