I have cleared back these steps multiple times over the past six years... 

I have cleared back these steps multiple times over the past six years... 

The American Midwest is well known for its agricultural fertility. Settlers came here from the east looking to find land they could use to feed their families and, with some luck, make their fortunes. My own ancestors - John Foulk, Joel Compton - came here from parts east themselves, from Pennsylvania and from New York State, respectively, to take advantage of the bounty of that fertility in one way or another.

Something that rarely gets mentioned, however, is the fact that soil that is good for growing crops is actually good for growing pretty much everything.

A weed, by definition, is just a plant that is growing in a place you don't want it to be. The soil on and around our property is rich, black earth, and it provides host opportunity for a vast array of plants. One of the realities we've come to face is the fact that two acres of space is an awful lot to keep track of when it comes to weed abatement.

Both Marnie and I have an interest in gardening that precedes our time at the homestead. Hers, as befits a marvelous cook, has been focused towards growing vegetables and other food-stuffs. Mine has always been oriented towards growing native plants. This latter interest has led me over the years to studying and understanding what the uninvited plants around us are, so I can understand if they can stay (e.g. If native) or if they should go (if not).

Having a property this size has provided, shall we say, an ample laboratory for study of those uninvited guests. While I am philosophically opposed to the wholesale eradication of weeds using chemicals (such as Roundup), I can understand, after several years of a losing battle, how one arrives at the perspective that a scorched earth approach is the way to go.

Part of the struggle is that the property, while cared for by family, was unoccupied for several years before we moved in; and the fact that my grandmother, who lived here alone for much of my life, was not able due to age and Alzheimer's, to keep up with it in the years before her passing. Which is not to say that she and others did not try. I can honestly verify from my own efforts that it's a huge hill to climb.

Our difficulties are with some of the more common elements that gardeners struggle with throughout the Midwest, in rural, suburban, and urban settings alike. Bindweed or Creeping Jenny and the various and sundry types of thistle are among our frustrations, and we have a crop of burdock that, were it really as useful as its Wikipedia page suggests, could make us wealthy.

Still, as frustrating as those plants are, they are not our greatest challenge.

It's the trees.

The %#&$ing trees...

Now to be clear, a well-placed tree is a beautiful thing, particularly out here in the country. A well-placed tree provides shelter from the wind, provides shade, perhaps provides fruit. A well-placed tree is a wonderful accent to the home.

A poorly placed tree is a thing of evil.

What we are struggling with is volunteers that have taken root either along the sides of buildings, or within other bushes, or in marginal locations that we weren't able to attend to before they'd gotten started in earnest. The offenders are primarily (though not exclusively) of three different species: Maple, White Mulberry, and Eunymous bushes.

While we have managed to keep up with them around the house and the garage, it's been a struggle to do so with respect to the bushes and the outbuildings. Our old barn is surrounded on two sides by the interlopers, and we have volunteers creeping around the corner of our Morton Shed. While it's not awful to have a tree growing near a building, the ones growing directly beside them threaten to crack and damage footings, and eventually grow to have branches rubbing against the shingles. In the case of the old barn these branches also likely provide a route of access into the loft for our mortal enemies, the Raccoons.

We have several stands of old bushes on the property as well. These are generally either Honeysuckle bushes or Lilacs, both of which have the distinction of growing up in multiple relatively small stems or trunks directly from the ground. This leaves all sorts of space for seeds to take purchase, and several of them now foster Mulberry saplings, as well as a couple of other volunteers I've now seen on multiple occasions, but which I cannot name. While the struggle around the buildings is simply managing the larger trees that have grown up there over time, getting interlopers out of the middle of a bush is a special torture that involves many, many scratches and scrapes, and many, many swear words.

I think that eventually we'll get ahead of them, though we may have to hire some help to get it done. But it's disheartening to clear out one bush, for example - an activity that can realistically take most of an afternoon - only to walk up to another and find it also full of invaders. And one knows that, if one cleans out that bush the next weekend, and another bush the following, one will find that the first bush has re-grown it's invaders.