Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Half-Way Stage

So here are some of my half-way done pics. It has been about a week now and the new shoots are staying down (for the most part), which is more than I expected. There is a lot of space here, and the soil is amazingly beautiful. But guess what? It's not my property. See the Fence? It belongs to the couple that live on the other side. Oh well, I still have to manage that weed because it will come on to my land. This area is a rocky ditch and because it's on the other side of the fence, it's hard for them to get to. Anyway, I am completely happy to be a crusader against this weed on any property.

Most of the information about getting rid of this weed is totally discouraging, but I have heard from (one) person that perseverance in digging them up can nearly eliminate them in a couple of years. I hope so, and I guess I'll find out because I am on a mission!

Here is the pile of root balls and stalks that I have dug up so far. It is drying out on my driveway so it can be burned. You can't really even throw this stuff away because it will just colonize somewhere else, and we really don't want it anywhere around here.

This shoot had been living out of the ground and without water for 5 days at the time the photo was taken. I went out to check them today and all the shoot have grown--yes grown--upward to catch the rays better. they will live for a while like this, amazing huh?

Some fresh interlopers.

Here is one coming up right in the middle of my beloved blood root patch! This knotweed is no more...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Japanese Knotweed

Sometimes, when I'm driving down the highway I look around at the roadside plants. Around here there is one plant in particular that crowds the roadside, the pond-sides, and forest-sides like eager shoppers pushing forward to be first in line on Black Friday. I speak of Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica, syn. Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica), or what I like to call “Apocalypse Plant” because I imagine that someday when people are all gone, and there's no one here to pave roads, build buildings or weed gardens this plant will be all that's left. Japanese Knotweed is a tall herbaceous perennial that is native to Eastern Asia. I have been told it was a landscaping favorite of Fredrick Law Olmsted, a landscape architect who designed the Emerald Necklace in Boson and The Arnold Arboretum in Boston, New York City's Central park, and funnily, a monument in my very own town. Given his long list of accomplishments in the advancement of green space I won't hold it against him. But, it is listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world's 100 worst invasive species. This plant is so vigorous that it will stand up to onslaughts of Round-Up, come up though pavement, grow through building foundations, and as I have witnessed stay alive and GROW from it's bare root when left out in a driveway for months. The roots can stay dormant for a long time and pop right back up when they are given a chance. A main plant can send it's horizontal rhizomes 25 feet and the root structure can go 9 feet deep.

It is basically impossible to kill. Years ago I lived next to this guy who had a back hoe come in and dig out his entire back yard and fill it with new soil. By the time I had moved in he was just getting his grass to grow. By mid-summer there was one shoot coming up tall and proud in the middle of his perfect lawn. He had told me his story and figured he had missed “one root.” I didn't know much about plants or invasives (actually, at the time I had a patch of mysterious plants show up and nearly pulled them out thinking they were this crazy weed, luckily I didn't because they were peonies!). Anyway, now I know that he could have dug up his lawn a million times, and the knotweed in the adjacent field would have continued to colonize his yard relentlessly. I don't know how he's doing with his battle, but I have started my own. I have a lovely garden of knotweed right on the boarder of my property. It's pretty big, with a few large “mother clusters.” It is spreading into my gardens and into my beautiful native bloodroot patch! Every year I have watched it come up and every year I halfheartedly pulled up a few plants where I want them the least. By early summer the whole area is completely filled in and I feel powerless against it all. It is edible and I have served it steamed to my family, but we found it tasted really not so good. Russ Cohen, a local edible food guru, swears by his knotweed pie recipe and claims no one has ever complained. I believe it, but I'm still getting rid of my plants come hell or high water! I figure if I get around to making that particular pie I will have a gazillion other sources to choose from.

So, I started to dig up all the individual plants that were growing onto my property. Much of the area I'm dealing with is rocky, which makes it really hard to get at. There are areas where the plant is coming up between huge boulders so all I can do is reach my arm into skunk-sized crevices between them and hope nothing bites be as I break off the pant. No good. I could get most of them up by simply shoveling them out. They actually pull up pretty easily, the trick is to get a lot of root. I did have to take an ax to one of the larger clusters, shown here, but I got as much of it as I could see.

Here it is almost completely dug out. You can see the giant root structure sitting on the rock.

So far I have spent three days pulling up this plant. I'd say I'm about half-way through. I have done so much that I actually feel hopeful. However, there must be a reason that no one suggests just pulling it out. The final word is always to kill it with poison, preferably to inject it directly into the root systems right before the flowering stage. But given my severe reluctance to use any kind of herbicide, I will try this first. I figure if I can keep on top of it and faithfully pull out every plant that comes up after making sure to take care of the most established plants I have to have a chance of eradicating it. Right?

As far as the plants I have pulled out, they are on a tarp in my driveway. I don't' even feel comfortable putting them in the trash and letting them get taken away to some far off landfill. So i am going to let them dry out and then burn them, I figure that ought to kill the jerks.

Black Bean Spinach Cheese Muffins

I started making muffins that could work as a lunch when my oldest was first walking. She wanted to walk around all the time, she wouldn't stop to eat a proper lunch. So even though it went against all kinds of notions about not eating and walking, not sitting down to a meal, not eating muffins all the time...I decided to make her a complete meal that could fit in her hand and go with her from the kitchen to the living room to the park.

Whisk together:
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese (I used Colby jack)

in another bowl combine:

1/2 cup pureed spinach drained and squeezed (if it's frozen just puree it, if it's fresh steam it lightly then do the work, also any green will do)
1/2 cup black beans rinsed
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk (you may need less depending on how well-squeezed your spinach is)

stir in the flour mixture slowly, don't over mix.

pour into greased mini muffin tins, bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Breakfast Cookies

We call them "Breakfast Cookies" because you can eat them for breakfast. Seriously. There isn't anything in them that you wouldn't find in a bowl of oatmeal with a side of eggs and toast. I feel like good-cop-mom when I give these to my kids in the morning or for snack. I would heartily recommend playing up your decision to give cookies for breakfast. Act as thought you have really gone out on a limb here because you just want them to be happy.

Preheat oven to 350

Whisk Together:

1 3/4 cup white wheat flour (or all purpose)

1 tsp basking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

In another bowl beat together:

2 sticks unsalted butter softened

1 cup honey (if you substitute about a 1/4 cup of honey for maple syrup your cookies will be a little crispier on the outside which is nice)

2 lg. eggs

2.5 tsp vanilla

Add flour mixture to the egg and butter mixture.


1 cup raisins

3 1/2 cup oats (old fashioned or quick, it doesn't seem to matter)

1 cup tasted or roasted unsalted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup flax (optional)

Mix raisin oat mix into the batter.

I use a baking stone, so keep an eye out if you use a cookie sheet, I'm not sure how different it would be. Spoon out a good amount, maybe three tablespoonfuls, and smush them down a bit, this helps keep them moist. Bake for about 15 minutes. They will be soft and they may try to fall apart when you take them off the baking ston or cookie sheet. Don't let them, and don't be tricked into baking them longer. When they are removed to a cooling rack they will firm right up. Promise.

(Here they are smushed down. I actually like to form them into patties like hamburgers, it keeps them form being dry and crumbly)

They should be browned along the edges. They will be soft and they may try to fall apart when you take them off the baking stone or cookie sheet. Don't let them! And don't be tricked into baking them longer. When they are removed to a cooling rack they will firm right up. Promise. Enjoy!